The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has been asked to formally investigate black economic empowerment and affirmative action legislation. The move comes shortly after the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) had criticised South Africa’s racial classification system in a new report.
According to the report, the CERD is concerned about the fact that South Africa is making use of apartheid era racial classification in its employment policies. The UN committee’s report came after the South African government had submitted its periodic report and trade union Solidarity had submitted a shadow report to CERD last year. The UN Committee also said in a statement that the South African affirmative action system is too rigid.
According to Solidarity Chief Executive Dr Dirk Hermann, the SAHRC acts as CERD’s agent in South Africa and the commission has to ensure that South Africa implements the requirements contained in UN resolutions and recommendations. The SAHRC has the power to investigate South Africa’s affirmative action legislation to determine whether it meets CERD’s requirements. One of CERD’s requirements is that affirmative action may not be based on race only and must also focus on an individual’s socio-economic circumstances.
CERD also recommended that South Africa report to the committee on the impact affirmative action has on labour, education, public and political matters. Government must also report on the impact of affirmative action on those persons affected by it.
CERD’s recommendations come as a major breakthrough for us in our bid to achieve balance in the race debate in South Africa. We expect the SAHRC to fulfil its mandate and to ensure that South Africa meets its international obligations.
“The handing over of the memorandum to the SAHRC today marks the beginning of a major campaign against all forms of racism Solidarity will run over the next three months. In particular, the campaign will focus on the double standards that apply to how racism is being dealt with in South Africa. South Africa is too patient when it comes to dealing with black on white racism. All forms of racism must be rejected,” Hermann said.
During the course of the next three months, Solidarity plans to publish a report on the double standards that apply to how racism is being handled, and will host a conference on the topic. As part of the campaign, a collective complaint by means of which thousands of South Africans will ask that racism be judged by the same yardstick will also form part of the campaign. At the end of the campaign, the complaint will be presented to Parliament and lodged with the SAHRC, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission (UNCHR), as well as with the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“We are convinced that all South Africans are tired of racism. We are calling on all South Africans, white and black, to stop racism in any form or statements. We have to show that the large middle group of all South Africans believe in mutual respect,” according to Hermann.