Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered by the DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen in Chatsworth, KwaZulu-Natal today.
Nearly 100 years ago, a man was born in the small town of Schweizer-Reneke in today’s North West Province.
He was the fourth of six children, with family roots going back to the Indian state of Gujarat.
His name was Ahmed Kathrada.
“Uncle Kathy,” as many would later call him, went on to play a seminal role in the fight against racial segregation.
In fact, even as a teenager, Mr. Kathrada fought against the so-called “Indian Ghetto Act,” which sought to restrict where Indian South Africans could live, trade and own land.
He was sent to jail for his defiance campaign before he was even 20 years old. Many years later, he was sentenced to life imprisonment as part of the Rivonia trail.
He spent 18 years on Robben Island.
I’m sharing this story with you because I’d like all of us here to consider what Uncle Kathy would say about the ANC’s new racial quota law.
The law, which Cyril Ramaphosa signed a few weeks ago, applies to any workplace with more than 50 employees.
It sets quotas for every workplace, in every economic sector, in every province, throughout this entire country.
And while the ANC tries to call these quotas “targets,” we know that they are, in fact, forced quotas. Because if companies don’t comply, they are severely punished.
Businesses can be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover. And they will be cut-off from all government business.
So, let’s try to answer the question of what Mr. Ahmed Kathrada would make of these quotas.
In fact, let’s look at what the new ANC race law says about North West, the province of his birth.
In the manufacturing sector in North West, the law restricts the employment of Indian South African females to 0.1%, and males to 0.2%.
Let’s just think about the insulting absurdity of this.
If a company with 50 employees employs even one Indian person, they will be exceeding the quota of 0.1%. Because one out of 50 is 2%.
But if that company then fires their only Indian employee on the basis of their race, they will also violate the quota because they will then be below 0.1%.
It is an outrage and an insult that any group of South Africans can be reduced to decimal points in the land of their birth.
But it’s not only in North West. Let’s look at what the ANC race law says about my home province, and your home province, KwaZulu-Natal.
Right here in KZN, the ANC wants to limit the share of Indian people working in skilled positions at every company in the retail industry in this province to 3.6% for men and 3.1% for women.
Now tell me: how many people in this room knows of a business in Chatsworth where more than 3.6% of the workforce is of Indian descent?
If we let this law stand, every one of those businesses can be driven into bankruptcy through fines and punishment from the government.
Thousands of men and women in this community will lose their jobs.
Children who are currently studying to become skilled professionals will be doomed to unemployment because they have the “wrong” skin colour. Even more of our children will emigrate and skills will flee the country.
Communities with majority Indian populations across South Africa will be hounded by ANC “labour inspectors.”
How long is it before we see the reintroduction of the pencil test to measure compliance with this ANC race law?
And it’s not only Chatsworth. And it’s not only Indian South Africans.
In a province like the Northern Cape, a business operating in Kimberley will be violating the law if they happen to employ more than 15.8% black women.
In Limpopo and Mpumalanga, the share of coloured people who may be employed at certain businesses is, literally, 0.0%. Zero percent.
Just think about this. The ANC is introducing a law that will ban entire groups of South Africans from working in specific areas or sectors.
This race law, in the year 2023, is effectively saying that people with certain skin colours do not belong in certain areas.
Does this not remind us of the Group Areas Act?
And you don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to. Just listen to what the ANC’s own former deputy secretary-general, Jessie Duarte, said in 2019:
I quote: “We are racist in the ANC because we marginalise people who are not black African people…We won’t accept the fact that non-racialism is a core value of the ANC.”
It is absolutely clear that, as the 2024 national election approaches, where the ANC will lose its national majority for the first time since 1994, they will intensify race-based legislation beyond anything we’ve seen under democracy.
The ANC are doing this because they are practicing a strategy of divide and rule.
They are hoping to pit different groups of South Africans against each other. They are hoping that we will be so divided that they can hang onto power in 2024.
We cannot allow them to succeed. We must now unite like never before.
The ANC is directly targeting the livelihood of every person in this community. But the same is true in communities across this country.
The only way we can defeat this evil, racist law, is by standing united.
All Indian, coloured, white and black South Africans who never want to go back to a place of racial division and the Group Areas Act must now come together against the ANC.
Voting for the DA is the single best way to unite against the ANC.
While the party of Cyril Ramaphosa is doing everything it can to deepen racial division, our party, my party – the DA – stands for a united and non-racial South Africa where every person has equal opportunities.
Rather than enforcing insane race quotas on every company in this country, a DA government would focus on providing quality education to every child, in every community.
Under a DA government there will be no race quotas. There will be equality of opportunity, where every person can compete freely and equally, and where every company can appoint the best candidates so we can grow our economy.
Just last week, a new report found that 81% of South African 10-year-olds cannot read for meaning.
It is this disgraceful education system that is driving inequality by condemning millions of children from poor backgrounds to lives of poverty and unemployment.
But, of course, the ANC will never admit that, because they are the ones responsible for this crime against our children.
Race quotas can never fix inequality, because they are aimed at disguising the symptom rather than addressing the root cause. That is why the DA’s solution is based on three key things: education, education, education.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You can rest assured that, even though the ANC is against you, the DA is with you!
We are already preparing to go to court to fight this race law. We are mobilising our structures across South Africa.
The story of Uncle Kathy teaches us that mass-based defiance campaigns can defeat any law that excludes people from certain jobs and areas on the basis of their skin colour.
It is time for us – for all South Africans – to rediscover that spirit of defiance. As 2024 draws closer, we are going to need it.
So let the ANC hear us today loud and clear. I hereby call on the people of Chatsworth and all people of South Africa to defy the ANC’s race law.
I call on companies, big and small, to defy a law that prevents them from hiring skilled people.
I call on workers to defy a law that judges them not on the content of their character, but on the colour of their skin.
And let Chatsowrth be the site where we launch this defiance campaign on Wednesday by turning out in huge numbers to teach the ANC a lesson in this by-election!
Let us go out there on Wednesday and vote DA like our lives depend on it.
Because the future of every single person in Chatsworth now depends on getting the DA into government so we can save our country – from load shedding, from crime, and from the ANC’s race quotas!
The people of this community and of this country defeated racist laws before through determined defiance. It is time for us to do it again, this time against the ANC.
On Wednesday, let us launch a new defiance campaign that sweeps away the ANC and its new Group Areas Act!
On Wednesday, let’s begin a new wave that will sweep the DA into the Union Buildings in 2024!