Advocates For Transformation (AFT) has weighed in on the controversy surrounding a Constitutional Court decision to uphold the SAPS’ employment equity plan.
In a statement this week, the AFT welcomed the judgment and called on trade union Solidarity, who pursued the case to the Constitutional Court, to stop pursuing “sectarian” interests.
The case began when an SAPS employee, Renate Barnard, was not promoted because the SAPS’ top echelons were already over represented by white employees.
The Constitutional Court found that the SAPS’ employment equity plan was a “restitutionary measure”. The court overturned a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment that found the plan discriminatory. But Solidarity’s reaction to the judgment was to promise to “intensify” its “fight against racial ideology”.
The AFT said these threats were not helpful. “Threats by Solidarity ‘to fight back’ following what it terms ‘the controversial Constitutional Court ruling’ are hardly helpful in our forward march to transformation and pursuit of equality and human dignity for all. The Constitutional Court judgment is unanimous. It is not controversial,” advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, AFT chairperson said.
Protecting minority rights
On September 4, Solidarity announced that it would approach the Labour Court in an attempt to compel the SAPS to consult the union on its “new affirmative action plan”. This because, according to Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann, police unions Popcru and Sapu “do not protect the rights of minority groups within the SAPS. “Solidarity has previously sent a written request to police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, asking to be part of the regulations of the plan. However, to date Phiyega has not responded to this request,” Hermann said in a statement.
But Ntsebeza said the Constitutional Court decision marked “the dawn of the spring season in our country’s pursuit of the constitutional values of human dignity and the achievement of equality”. “Indeed, it is significant that the Constitutional Court is unanimous in finding that ‘affirmative action measures are not unfair’,” Ntsebeza said.
“Advocates for Transformation welcomes in equal measure the fittingly bold and overdue pronouncement by the Constitutional Court of South Africa that the insinuation that affirmative action measures ‘are a refuge for the mediocre or incompetent’ is both hurtful and incorrect.
“Equally, we welcome that the Constitutional Court of South Africa has re-iterated, lest we forget, and stated boldly and in express terms that apartheid is ‘indeed a crime against humanity’.
“Advocates for Transformation welcomes also the express acknowledgement by the Constitutional Court of South Africa that even the ‘innocent’ benefited from the wrong that was apartheid by reason only of their race. Indeed, we welcome the Constitutional Court’s recognition that ‘one can benefit from a wrong without being guilty of wrongdoing’,” Ntsebeza said.
The AFT said it hoped the judgment would put an end for calls for an affirmative action “sell-by-date” to be imposed, “long before restitutionary measures have even scratched the surface in pursuit of remedying the damage caused by apartheid over decades”.