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Participants' perceptions of affirmative action programmes in South Africa

A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Education, University of the Witwatersrand
in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education / A major challenge in South Africa in the 1990s is that of assisting black people to take
leadership positions in important sectors of community life, including the business sector. To address this need, companies are drawing up affirmative action programmes which have educational aims, such as leadership development, skills training and integration into Western corporate culture. As these companies draw up and implement their plans, it becomes important to consider the perceptions of both the planners and the 'beneficiaries' of these programmes. This study set out to question participants about the meaning and impact of affirmative action on themselves, on the organizations in which they are employed and on South African society generally.
The research uses the frameworks of critical education theory and research to
enquire into the historical and present contexts of affirmative action In South Africa;
international models of affirmative action; the social background of participants in affirmative action programmes; participants' perceptions of the programmes in which they are engaged; social outcomes of affirmative action; and participants' ideas for changes and improvements to programmes.
The research method consisted of in-depth interviews with forty-six managers involved in
affirmative.' action programmes in four large Johannesburg-based business organizations.
Respondents were selected in an intentional sample, and were predominantly African men, although men and women of all races were interviewed. Policy documents, records and reports on affirmative action in the four participating organizations, and from further afield, were scrutinized. The research results are reported in the form of biographical profiles of individual participants, as well as case studies of the four corporate programmes. These were preceded by a treatment of theoretical positions in affirmative action, as well as historical and international perspectives.
The research results show that in the short term affirmative action impacts on organizational values, practices and culture in ways which may be read by white managers as threats to customary standards of performance and productivity. In the longer term, however, affirmative action will be sustained by business survival factors and political considerations. The findings suggest that corporate affirmative action programmes generally fail to provide black managers with a sense of purpose or belonging in their organizations. They also fail to address problems of racism and resistance to change in the organization. The aims of affirmative action programmes are rarely made explicit. Planners and recipients hold different views of the benefits to be gained from them. The ideological component of affirmative action is often under-rated in programme design, and measures of accountability are neglected. For these reasons and others, affirmative action programmes may succeed in bringing black managers into business organizations, but fail to retain them, or offer them viable career paths, so that a stable, motivated and experienced black management corps may be built. So far, corporate affirmative action programmes have contributed to the growth of the black
middle class, They do not - and perhaps cannot -address the national need for redistribution, reconstruction and development of opportunities and resources (including human resources). / AC2017
Date January 1996
CreatorsCastle, Penelope Jane
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
Detected LanguageEnglish
Formatapplication/pdf, application/pdf

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