Race discrimination: Our draft complaint to the UN - Solidarity

Dirk Hermann says union is addressing an issue that affects all South Africans and one that has become a burning issue for all

Solidarity presents draft report of complaint to be brought before the UN against SA government

7 May 2015

Trade union Solidarity today presented the draft complaint about affirmative action it intends to bring before the United Nations later this year. In terms of the Solidarity complaint, the South African government is contravening a UN convention that prohibits all forms of race discrimination. The complaint focuses on government’s use of the national race demography as a quota policy.

The complaint takes the form of a shadow report that will be submitted to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Solidarity today also started a two month long public process to obtain input from South Africans across the entire racial and political spectrum in order to reflect the opinion of a broad spectrum of South Africans in the report.

Once the public consultation has been completed the report will be finalised and formally submitted to the UN in August 2015.

CERD makes provision for civil society organisations to report a government to it by means of a shadow report submitted in response to that particular government’s own report to CERD.

“This is the first time since 1994 that the South African government would stand accused of racial discrimination before the United Nations. In essence, the complaint is that the South African government’s absolute focus on race representivity is in conflict with CERD’s provisions. The state’s race policies go beyond what is internationally allowed and no longer comply with international requirements for affirmative action,” Solidarity Chief Executive, Dirk Hermann, said.

Hermann explains that the complaint against government contained in the shadow report goes beyond Solidarity and its members. “We are addressing an issue that affects all South Africans and one that has become a burning issue for all, irrespective of race. South Africans across the board are tired of a poor police service due to an excessive focus on race; they believe it to be grossly unfair to apply the national demography in the Western Cape; and they believe it is absurd to drive away skills at Eskom by using an aggressive quota system amid an electricity crisis. Therefore, we are expecting support from all quarters during our public consultation process,” Hermann said.

Government’s policy of quotas based on race cannot be defined as affirmative action but rather as a form of neo-racialism that is not acceptable anywhere in the world.

Some of the main points contained in Solidarity’s complaint against government’s neo-racialism are that:

- Different silos are created for different race and gender groups;

- Government wants to create a future through social engineering;

- Race classification is yet again being institutionalised in South Africa;

- Race distinction has become the basis for decision making;

- The focus is not on past disadvantage but only on race;

- There is no sunset clause because the race demography is constantly changing;

- Focus on training and the development of people is lacking while the focus is only on mathematical outcomes; and

- Race quotas are pursued without regard to service delivery.

In contrast, international affirmative action practices stipulate that:

- No silos may be created and that class should also be considered, while race may only be used in extreme cases;

- Past disadvantage is redressed wholly and not just mathematically;

- The institutionalisation of forms of racial qualification be guarded against;

- With a view to using merit only, there should be a sunset clause that doesn’t go beyond what is needed;

- A variety of factors must be considered, which include equity, individual merit, and operational requirements;

- The focus should be on training and development of people as main method of redress; and that

- The focus should be on proper service delivery as a form of redress particularly for the poor.

South Africa’s programme of race representivity, therefore, doesn’t meet the definition of affirmative action.

Click here to download the complete report.

Statement issued by Dirk Hermann, Chief Executive: Solidarity, May 8 2015