SA Affirmative Action To Be Challenged At The United Nations

Trade union Solidarity’s campaign to challenge the government’s implementation of affirmative action at the United Nations has gained momentum following the South African government’s submission of a report on the elimination of racial discrimination in South Africa to the United Nations. The report was submitted eight years after the deadline.

The submission of the report comes after Solidarity lodged a complaint with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) of the United Nations (UN) on 28 October 2014 regarding the government’s failure to submit reports. A similar complaint was lodged with the South African Human Rights Commission. The government was moreover cautioned in September last year with a view to taking legal action if reports were not submitted. Now that a report has been submitted, Solidarity will be able to submit a shadow report to the CERD.

Solidarity initiated the campaign last year following the Constitutional Court ruling that the police had not discriminated unfairly against Lieutenant Colonel Renate Barnard by not promoting her. Barnard recently announced that she has committed herself to campaigning for fairness in the workplace on a full-time basis and that she has joined Solidarity’s Centre for Fair Labour Practices.

According to Dirk Hermann, chief executive of Solidarity, compelling the government to submit reports was vital for the trade union’s campaign at the UN. Solidarity is now in the position to show the UN that the way in which the government enforces affirmative action is not in line with UN requirements. Solidarity could not submit a shadow report before the government submitted its report.

The biggest problem of the South African affirmative action programme is that it has turned into a numbers game that has nothing to do with affirmative action and is just about race. The South African government’s exaggerated focus on racial representation will be strongly underlined in the shadow report.

Solidarity will involve a number of South Africa’s leading legal and political science experts in formulating the shadow report.

We plan to garner massive support that transcends racial groups and other traditional lines of division for the formulation of the shadow report. A delegation of Solidarity will visit the UN in the first half of 2015 to garner support and to submit the report to the UN officially,” said Hermann.

The UN requires governments that have signed the convention on the elimination of racial discrimination to submit a report in this regard every two years. The last time the SA government submitted such a report to the CERD was in 2004 and the next report should have been submitted in 2006.

Solidarity will represent employees of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) in the Labour Appeal Court in Cape Town on 19 February 2015. In this lawsuit the government is defending its practice of applying the national racial demographics in the Western Cape. The result of this practice is that coloured employees, in particular, practically have no chance of being promoted.

The DCS case study will be used to strengthen Solidarity’s case at the UN.

SA – The Good News via Dirk Hermann, Chief Executive, Solidarity