The Effects of Professional Mentoring and Coaching as a Racial Integration Intervention in South African Workplaces
South Africa is a country with a history of deep racial divisions. This country is also blessed with a racial and ethnic diversity in its population. The racial division affected almost all sections of the South African society including the workplaces. The apartheid government used racial discriminative laws to divide employees in the workplace. In 1994 South Africa became a democratic society with a new democratic constitution under the leadership of Nelson Mandela who lead the country through national reconciliation. One of the priorities of Nelson Mandela’s government was to build use the strength of the diverse South African society by building a true “rainbow nation”. The idea of nation building and respecting diversity is also articulated in the preamble of the constitution which says:
“We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to ¬
• Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
• Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
• Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
• Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations” ((The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, 1996)
One of Human Resources Management best practices that seems to be successful in bringing about racial integration in South African organisations is professional mentoring and coaching. Although mentoring and coaching programmes are aimed at improving the performance of employees in organisations, these programmes have a major role to play in helping people from different racial and ethnic groups to understand each other better and work together in harmony.
This paper will explore the phenomenon of cross racial mentoring and coaching in the workplace as a key intervention used in South Africa to bridge the racial gap among employees from different races. Randomly selected case studies of cross racial mentoring and coaching relationships will be analysed with the aim of:
• Identifying the nature of cross racial mentoring and coaching relationships
• Identifying the effectiveness of mentoring and coaching relationships in minimising the effects of racial segregation in South African workplaces
• Identifying the role of cultural/racial differences on mentoring and coaching relationships
• Assessing how much has cross racial mentoring and coaching interventions contributed in fostering racial integration in South African organisations.
Keywords: Racial Integration, Diversity, Mentoring, Coaching, Racism
Mr Avhatakali Lazarus Nenungwi
Human Resource Development Specialist, Human Resources Management, University of South Africa