White S.African workers march against black share scheme

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About 2,000 members of a mainly white South African trade union protested on Thursday against a plan by chemicals company Sasol to allocate shares only to black employees.

The Solidarity union, mainly made up of white Afrikaners, said its 6,300 members working at Sasol's Secunda plant southeast of Johannesburg felt "alienated" and "powerless".

"We can't address an old system of exclusion by a future system of new exclusion," Solidarity leader Dirk Hermann told AFP.

"The question is, when does affirmative action and empowerment go too far? There must be parameters."

The union has demanded that the blacks-only share scheme be extended to include white workers or that an alternative scheme is developed.

Banners at the march read "Stop racism at Sasol" and "Skin colour doesn't determine my worth".

"By giving only black people shares, we are dividing ourselves just when we've started to understand each other after 20 years," Cobus van Rooyen, 37, a machine operator at Sasol, told AFP.

Sasol has said that the new share scheme would empower members of previously disadvantaged communities in South Africa, where racial inequality remains high decades after the end of apartheid rule in 1994.

Flanked by armed private security, senior executives from Sasol accepted a list of demands from Solidarity.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has said any protests against the share scheme would have "racist overtones".

"Characterising the Sasol initiative as racial exclusion is at best malicious -- and at worst dishonest," the party said.

"With today's demonstration, there was a temporary decrease in attendance by Solidarity members at our Secunda Operations," Sasol said in a statement. "As a result, some of today's planned activities were impacted."

Since 2003, South African law has set quotas for non-white employees, ownership and management to redress the inequalities of apartheid.

© 2018 AFP

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