Solidarity and AfriForum in court tomorrow about Department of Tourism’s race criterion for Covid-19 help
27 April 2020
Solidarity and AfriForum will meet in the North Gauteng High Court tomorrow, 28 April 2020, to have the Department of Tourism’s decision to use race as criterion for awarding help during the Covid-19 crisis, reviewed. The court case will continue as scheduled after there was no political intervention by president Ramaphosa as requested from Solidarity over the weekend. These two organisations ask that the court will review the Department’s decision to use race as determining factor on who will receive help from the Tourism Relief Fund. According to Solidarity it is tragic that South Africa, in the midst of a crisis, is still divided based on race.
“This pandemic is not a crisis that only affects certain people – the whole South Africa is in this crisis. The tourism sector is severely affected, yet the Department of Tourism will, other than the virus, look at your race and discriminate against you based on the colour of your skin,” said Dr Dirk Hermann, Chief Executive of Solidarity. “It is the colour of your skin and thus not your needs that are the determining factor for help.”
In court documents the Department of Tourism offered black empowerment, which was designed for a specific purpose, as its defence.
According to Solidarity the purpose of black economic empowerment is to correct the disadvantages of the past. The Tourism Relief Fund should not be about those who were previously disadvantaged, but about survival.
Furthermore, Solidarity arguments that according to black economic empowerment regulations micro enterprises are exempt from black economic empowerment requirements in normal circumstances.
Amid the Covid-19 crisis black empowerment, with the many administrative and financial obligations that come with it, suddenly applies to these enterprises.
In this crisis, the hurdle that must be overcome by white owned companies became much higher than what it is under normal circumstances,” said Hermann.
The Tourism Relief Fund excludes large businesses, most white-owned micro-businesses and small enterprises that are not tax-registered (most of them being owned by black people).
Only companies with a turnover of less than R5 million per year and registered for tax purposes qualify for help from this Fund.
A small group of black owners, only 7% of the sector, will qualify for the lion’s share of the relief. In total, 93% of owners, including thousands of small informal black businesses, are excluded from receiving any assistance.
Solidarity also arguments that of the 350 000 employees in this sector, two out of three are black. This fund excludes the vast majority of these breadwinners.
According to Hermann, this fund is committing double discrimination in a crisis – first towards the white business owners and secondly towards all workers, white and black alike. Hunger does not spare those whose employers are white.
Solidarity already submitted a complaint to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) on 25 March after government indicated that emergency funds will be awarded based on race. On 30 March, an urgent application was served to the Department and the case is scheduled to be heard in the North Gauteng High Court along with a similar case from AfriForum on 28 April.
Over the weekend, Solidarity asked President Ramaphosa to intervene politically in the decision of the Department of Tourism. In his letter to Ramaphosa, Solidarity writes: “In sy skrywe aan Ramaphosa skryf Solidariteit: “You ask for everyone’s help, yet the Minister of Tourism does not want to help everyone. You said that the coronavirus could leave a positive legacy, which is bringing South Africans together through their determination for survival. However, this help offered based on race can divide South Africans. It can be the negative legacy of the corona crisis.”
According to Hermann, Solidarity went out of its way to try and find a political solution to this problem. It is a pity that court should now be the forum that decides on race as criterion in times of crisis. These types of cases do not belong in court in the midst of a crisis.
Issued by Anton van der Bijl, Head: Labour Law Services, 27 April 2020