Affirmative action in the dock

Affirmative action will be in the dock in November when the trade union Solidarity brings a challenge in the labour court over the police’s promotions policy.

“The case will test whether affirmative action and representivity could be more important than service delivery,” Solidarity deputy secretary general Dirk Hermann said in a statement on Thursday.

“Good affirmative action will result in the best possible police service to the masses,” he said.

“Nobody benefits from a post being left vacant. The only thing this leads to is poorer service delivery, which increases instead of reduces inequality.”

Hermann said Solidarity was handling the case on behalf of Captain Renate Barnard, who he claimed had twice been overlooked for promotion because of her race.

“The position was never filled, which would therefore have a negative effect on service delivery,” he said.

Solidarity reached an out-of-court settlement on Monday in a matter involving four white forensic experts who were not promoted, because of affirmative action, to posts left vacant in the absence of suitable candidates from the designated group.

“Although the settlement was to the satisfaction of the parties, it did not result in the establishment of case law,” said Hermann.

“Therefore, we still need to obtain a court ruling in order get legal certainty.
As such, a further court case is of critical importance,” he said.

He said Barnard, a white woman, applied for a new police post established to handle complaints and improve service delivery.

She did so much better in her interview than another applicant for the position, that the interview panel said it would be to the detriment of service delivery not to appoint her.

However, the regional commissioner believed her appointment would not promote racial representivity and decided to leave the post vacant.

Barnard reapplied for the job when it was advertised a year later and was again the best performer.

This time around the regional commissioner recommended that she be appointed, believing that if she were not appointed she would be demoralised and service delivery would suffer.

“He also said that black candidates had had a year to qualify for the job, but that Captain Barnard still outperformed them,” said Hermann.

However, he was overruled by the national commissioner and the post was scrapped.

“Affirmative action goes too far if it impedes crime prevention. If this happens, it is not affirmative action anymore, but rather a racial ideology,” said Hermann.

The police could not be reached for comment.—Sapa

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