Cosatu drops equality case against Zille

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has dropped its Equality Court complaint against Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, saying it recognises her commitment to gender equality.

Judge Willem Louw on Friday made a two-page agreement between the two sides an order of court, after asking them last week to try to reach a settlement.

Cosatu had asked the court to order Zille to reconstitute her 11-person provincial executive, all of whom, apart from her, are male.

In terms of the agreement, Cosatu has withdrawn its complaint, and no costs order will be made, despite the fact that the province has been paying for the services of two counsel.

The agreement also says the two sides “consent to the publication” of a joint statement.

“In light of what is contained in the answering affidavits filed in the Equality Court proceedings,” says the statement, “the premier’s commitment to gender equality and the advancement of women is apparent, rendering it unnecessary to proceed with this litigation.”

Zille’s spokesperson, Robert Macdonald, said Cosatu’s Western Cape provincial secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, in whose name the complaint was lodged, and the union federation had stepped down because they realised they did not have a case.

Zille had told Ehrenreich before the matter even reached the court that the gender make-up of her cabinet was the result of nearly all senior Democratic Alliance women candidates opting to stand for election to Parliament rather than the provincial legislature.

“The premier’s commitment to gender equality was never in question,” Macdonald said.

“She runs a government made up by the only two parties led by women in South Africa.

“By contrast, Cosatu’s leaders are nearly all men, and its alliance partner in government has never been led by a woman.”

Ehrenreich said after the brief hearing that the order was “a great victory for the women of the Western Cape”.

He said the court had essentially confirmed Zille’s commitment towards women and the advancement of gender in the province.

“And in the event of there being vacancies in the Cabinet, women will be appointed to that, because that’s what the premier’s affidavit to the court says,” he said.

“What the court has concluded is that in the affidavit for the first time the premier concedes that it’s not her right to just employ on the basis of what she says are skills, because that was the premier’s essential argument, that skill overrides everything.

“In the affidavit they concede they have an obligation to gender advancement.”

Macdonald said, however, that Zille’s affidavit did not say that women would be automatically appointed to future vacancies.

Nor had she had made any concession in the document on the issue of skills.

Cosatu is a partner in an alliance with the ruling African National Congress.

Zille is also leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance.—Sapa

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