AA at issue in prisons case

2013-04-25 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Discrimination between Africans and coloureds and Indians was yesterday at issue during a case concerning affirmative action.

Trade Union Solidarity is acting on behalf of several Correctional Services staff passed over for promotion.

On the one hand, it was submitted that the inequalities created by apartheid, which discriminated between black, coloured and Indian people, must be put right, and that the Constitution makes provision for the difference.

On the other hand, it was submitted that the Constitution makes provision for rectifying past inequalities, but not by relying on distinctions between blacks, coloureds and Indians as under apartheid.

Solidarity is acting for Linda-Jean Fortuin, Pieter Davids, Christopher February, André Jonkers and Geonita Baartman. Another five people in similar positions, D. Merkeur, T. Abrahams, D. Jordaan, J. Kotze and D. Wehr, were added to the case yesterday. All 10 were allegedly passed over for Correctional Services promotions.

Solidarity is asking the Labour Court to order their promotions and to declare the DCS affirmative action policy illegal.

The case, which has been described as having the potential to change affirmative action in the DCS and the whole civil service, began before Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker yesterday.

Marumo Moerane SC, for the DCS, argued that when the Constitution set out to address past inequalities, it also concerned discrimination between blacks, coloureds and Indians.

Solidarity’s first witness, Western Cape deputy DCS commissioner Fred Engelbrecht, disagreed.

“That is not how I understand the Constitution. The Constitution sets out to correct the inequalities of the past but it doesn’t concern the distinction between black, coloured and Indian.”

Engelbrecht, who has 31 years’ service in the department, said he undertands that there are national targets, but has a problem with the way the policy was implemented. The current system is aimed at black domination over whites, coloureds and Indians.

“From September 2011 until February 3, 2013, 97% of the appointments were black people,” he said. “Nowhere in the law does it say only blacks may apply for promotion.”

He said he expressed his disquiet to national commissioner Tom Moyane, who agreed there was a problem. Later, he made an “about-turn”, he said.

Under cross examination he agreed with Moerane that under apartheid, blacks were disadvantaged by Bantu education, and were passed over in favour of coloureds.

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