Affirmative action ruling handed down

A landmark Labour Court judgement was handed down on Friday ordering the SA Police Service to promote Captain Renate Barnard after she was denied the career move because of her race.

“The failure to promote Barnard was a decision based on her race and constituted racial discrimination,” the court found.

“It is not apparent that consideration was given to the applicant’s [Barnard’s] right to equality and dignity. There appears to be no consideration of her personal work history and circumstances.”

Barnard, wearing an ankle-length green dress, emerged from the court with a broad smile on her face. She expressed relief at getting the job, which encompassed her life-long dream—to serve the South African public.

“It was not an easy road, but I am so relieved,” said Barnard, who comes from a family of police officers.

“Thank you to my father in heaven and to [trade union] Solidarity.”

The judgement stipulated that she be promoted to the rank of superintendent with effect from July 27 2006.
The SAPS was also ordered to pay Barnard’s legal costs.

It was unclear whether she would occupy her new post when she returned to work, as the SAPS was still studying the judgement.

“We are looking into the matter, we will be studying the judgement along with our legal team,” said Nonkululeko Mbatha, spokesperson for police National Commissioner Bheki Cele.

“After carefully studying the document, I’m sure that will be the route we will be pursuing, but for now we cannot say for certain,” she said when asked whether SAPS was considering appealing the decision.

‘Step to the future’
Solidarity general secretary Dirk Hermann described the judgement as a victory for all South Africans.

“We are absolutely delighted. The judgement brought about a new direction in affirmative action,” he said.

“This means for the police service that merit is also critical for affirmative action.”

Hermann said the police could bolster Solidarity’s case on affirmative action if it appealed against the judgement.

“If they appeal, it opens up a path for us to a constitutional judgement as well,” he said.

“We have a battle to bring the public service back to the parameters of the Employment Equity Act.

“We believe that transformation must be within the parameters of the Constitution ... It’s [the ruling] a step to the future… it’s a protection of the SA Constitution.”

Hermann said Friday’s judgement put Solidarity in a better position to win nine other, similar cases pending against the state.

“We believe that the state lost a lot of legal ground,” he said.

Friday’s judgement could be used as “good authority” in the future.

The remaining cases included one against the department of correctional services and eight against the SAPS.

Three of the cases against the police involve ex-police officers denied jobs on the basis of their race. The remaining five are similar to that of Barnard regarding promotion. - Sapa

Natasha Marrian

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