‘We support transformation, just not in national teams’ – Solidarity

Trade Union Solidarity is going ahead with its court challenge against transformation in sport. Despite the fact that there is no intention by the department of sports and recreation to implement a national team quota system.

On the sidelines of the release of the Transformation Status Report on Monday afternoon, Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa revealed that her department is assembling the best legal minds in the country to combat the challenge. Last year the union, alongside AfriForum, took the South African Rugby Union, Cricket South Africa, Athletics South Africa and Netball South Africa to the Labour Court in Johannesburg over transformation targets.

Xasa and other departmental officials stressed on Monday that there are not any quotas that national teams have to abide by.

“What they say and what they do is a different story,” Solidarity labour head Anton van der Bijl told the Mail & Guardian. “There’s a certain charter agreement that states that certain targets must be met. If they are not met then it means specific sanctions will be taken against that specific federation.

READ MORE: Transformation report: Rugby still lagging behind

“It is a quota system because there are sanctions if targets are not met. So ja, the argument that there is no quota system is untrue.”

The sports department currently prefers individual federations to set their own targets. In addition, it encourages long-term development over short-term demographic ratio improvements in South Africa’s national sides.

“We support development and transformation in the sense that we support the upliftment of previously disadvantaged individuals per team,” Van der Bijl continued.

“To set certain quota targets for a national team without looking at grassroots or school level transformation, that’s unlawful. We are of the view that transformation must happen but at grassroots level, not in the national team.”

On the sidelines of the event on Monday, Xasa said her department will devote all the resources necessary to combat the Solidarity challenge.

“They have taken us to court because they are saying this is going to disadvantage the people that are advantaged already,” she said. “They want to protect the apartheid and colonial legacy.

“How they are putting it, it’s a backdoor to challenge the entire transformation that the nation is engaged in. So that is why we say there is no way we can take this lying down. We have to challenge it with every measure we can, no matter how expensive it can be. Already the director general has been tasked to put up the most senior team of experts.

“If we win, it means no one can challenge transformation in South Africa.”

The ministry will file its response this week and a court date is expected to be set on Friday.

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Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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