Trade union tackles affirmative action in South Africa

Over the past few days, I’ve been reporting on trade union Solidarity’s action against the correctional services department at the Labour Court in Cape Town. These are the stories that I’ve written…


Written by Yazeed Kamaldien (29 April 2013)

Trade union Solidarity this week launched its Stop Race-firmative Action campaign to engage South Africans on “alternative ideas regarding affirmative action.”

The union is currently battling the department of correctional services at the Labour Court in Cape Town to ensure jobs for coloureds, whites and Indians.

Solidarity argues that the department favours blacks above others for jobs, by applying national quotas for the workplace. It says the Western Cape should be considered differently as it has more coloureds than blacks in the province.

Solidarity said this week “thousands of South Africans will be involved in the campaign through emails, SMS’s, a dedicated webpage and social media pages.”

Dirk Hermann, deputy general secretary of Solidarity, said the “government’s ideas on affirmative action are too readily accepted as all there is.”

He said Solidarity’s case against correctional services “illustrated to us the absurd consequences of an affirmative action programme based solely on race.”

“If the government’s plan is implemented to the last detail in the Western Cape it will mean that there are approximately one million coloured South Africans too many, since they constitute about 53% of the population in the Western Cape but are nationally less than 10% of the population,” said Hermann.

“That would mean that in the Western Cape coloured South Africans should literally be down managed from 53% to 10%, merely because a calculator determined the statistics. The only way to achieve that is by means of a huge social manipulation programme and forced removals.”

He added: “The government’s approach has developed into a mathematical approach replacing people with numbers. This has nothing to do with affirmation and everything to do with race.”

Hermann said Solidarity would contact 1,500 of the country’s largest employers on this issue next month. It has already sent text messages to 100,000 persons requesting support for its campaign to address affirmative action.



Written by Yazeed Kamaldien (April 25 2013)

Trade union Solidarity and its members yesterday charged ahead with claims that the correctional services department favours blacks over others for top jobs.

The union has taken legal action at the Labour Court in Cape Town against the department over its employment practices in the Western Cape.

It argues that the department should not apply national quota systems slanted towards employing more blacks. It says the Western Cape should be considered differently as blacks are not a majority in the province.

Solidarity believes correctional services discriminates particularly against coloureds, the majority race group in the province.

Lawyers for Solidarity and the correctional services department yesterday continued with cross-examination of Freddie Engelbrecht. He is the regional deputy commissioner at the Western Cape correctional services department.

Engelbrecht told the court that vacancies that whites and coloureds had applied for were re-advertised and left unfilled.

Advocate Marumo Moerane, representing correctional services, said the department’s employment tactics were “rational” and “lawful.”

Engelbrecht replied: “It is irrational. It was based on race… It’s unlawful. It’s based on race and people are being treated as objects.”

Engelbrecht told the court that posts that were not filled with blacks were also “abolished.” The former chairperson of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said he also told this union that its support for the correctional service’s policies were “bad.”

“Popcru said that coloureds benefited from apartheid,” he said.

The previous day, Engelbrecht told the court that coloureds also suffered under apartheid and needed jobs too.

Senior Counsel Martin Brassey, Solidarity’s legal representative, asked Engelbrecht in court whether promotions were given to all race groups.

“Are white people given promotions or only affirmative action (candidates)?” asked Brassey.

Engelbrecht replied: “Only affirmative action.”

The matter continues in the Labour Court today (Friday).



Written by Yazeed Kamaldien (April 24 2013)

Coloureds, whites and Indians face racial discrimination when applying for promotion at the Western Cape’s correctional services department, heard the Labour Court in Cape Town yesterday.

Solidarity trade union, which represents a cross-section of workers, has taken the matter to the court on behalf of its members. It is opposing the national department of correctional services as well as the labour and correctional services ministers.

Dirk Groenewald, who works with Solidarity’s labour unit, said they were challenging national quotas that inhibited workplace advancement of coloureds, whites and Indians.

National legislation, aimed at redressing apartheid inequalities, states that the correctional services department should employ 79% black employees, 8,8% coloureds, 9,3% whites and 2,4% Indians, said Groenewald.

“But the largest economically active group in the Western Cape are coloureds. They are 53% of the population. That means about a million coloureds will be denied jobs,” said Groenewald.

Senior Counsel Martin Brassey, Solidarity’s legal representative, yesterday interrogated Freddie Engelbrecht to explain how appointments were made at the department.

Engelbrecht is regional deputy commissioner at the provincial correctional services department. He said posts remained vacant at the department because only blacks would be allowed to fill them.

Engelbrecht who would be termed racially as coloured told the court that he was also “black during apartheid.” He argued that coloured persons were denied jobs.

“I also suffered under apartheid,” he said.

Engelbrecht was also involved in a legal battle against the correctional services department because he has been denied a job that he has previously also applied for.

“I have launched the case based on racial discrimination. It reminds me of apartheid… Appointments are clearly based on race and gender. I’m unhappy about it and taking it to court,” he said.

Advocate Marumo Moerane, representing the correctional services ministry, argued that quotas were needed to “redress apartheid.”

He said it wanted to correct laws that had placed “whites at the top, coloureds and Indians in the middle and blacks at the bottom of the food chain.”

“To achieve substantive equality you have to take all those factors into account,” said Moerane.

The matter continues in the Labour Court today (Thursday).



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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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