SA’s racial policy to be officially tried by UN’s ILO – Solidarity

Complaint contends that SA govt contravenes ILO Convention No 111 dealing with racial discrimination

SA’s racial policy to be officially tried by UN’s ILO following Solidarity’s complaint 

11 May 2022

South Africa’s racial policy is now officially on trial by the United Nations (UN’s) labour agency, the International Labour Organisation (ILO). 

This comes after the ILO’s governing body declared at its 344th session held in March this year that Solidarity’s complaint regarding the South African government’s racial policy was admissible. This means that, at face value, Solidarity’s complaint has merit, complies with all the ILO’s technical requirements and that we have exhausted all remedies in South Africa. The matter is now going into a trial phase. This is a huge compliment to our legal team.

In Solidarity’s complaint it is contended that the South African government contravenes ILO Convention No 111 dealing with racial discrimination.

According to Solidarity Chief Executive Dr Dirk Hermann, the ILO’s finding is a major breakthrough and could change the face of racial quotas for ever. While it is a huge step forward, the battle is not won yet.

“This is the first time since 1994 that not only a complaint has been filed against the government, but it has entered the trial phase,” Hermann said. 

The ILO has already written to the South African government indicating that, in terms of the ILO’s rules, a process of voluntary conciliation under supervision of this body can be followed between the government and Solidarity.

Solidarity has meanwhile indicated that it would participate in such a process. If the government is not interested in conciliation it must provide comment on the Solidarity complaint before 30 May this year. It will then be assessed by the ILO.

In the mass complaint Solidarity points out that South Africa’s racial policy again classifies people according to race, that it is of permanent nature and that it does not lead to redress of disadvantage. 

Solidarity also submitted a report by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) which makes the point that the government’s racial policy is unconstitutional and in which it is recommended that the Employment Equity Act be amended. The SAHRC report comes in response to a complaint which Solidarity had lodged with the SAHRC. The government ignored the SAHRC’s recommendations.

The ILO is a UN agency responsible for setting international labour standards. A total of 187 countries, including South Africa, are members of the ILO. South Africa has ratified Convention No 111 which prohibits racial discrimination and as such South Africa is bound by the Convention. South Africa has to adapt its legislation in accordance with the ILO’s recommendations. If South Africa ignores this, the ILO can take diplomatic action against South Africa and Solidarity can approach the local courts.

On 5 October 2021 Solidarity filed a mass complaint against the South African government with the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Genève. Solidarity has also submitted several complaints to European parliaments. Since Solidarity’s UN visit delegations from the Netherlands and Hungary have visited South Africa to obtain further information.

Issued by Anton van der Bijl, Head: Legal matters, 11 May 2022