The trade union Solidarity has filed papers with the Johannesburg Labour Court in which the court was petitioned to declare invalid the affirmative action plan of the South African Police Service (SAPS) in its entirety as it was in conflict with the Employment Equity Act and the Constitution of South Africa.
In the papers Solidarity focused on the SAPS’s enforcement of quotas according to the national race demographics.
If Solidarity’s application is successful, it may have far-reaching implications for the entire public service since the affirmative action policies of other government departments are based on the same principle as those of the SAPS, the union says in a statement. Moreover, the private sector will also be bound by a successful verdict.
This will be the first time the court is asked to declare the entire affirmative action plan of the SAPS invalid. It follows after Solidarity has already taken the SAPS to court in 14 separate cases. According to Dirk Hermann, Deputy General Secretary of Solidarity, the core of the problem in this case is not individuals whom the SAPS has wronged but the plan itself. “We cannot continue taking individual cases to court. Now for the first time we are taking to court the root of the problem, namely absolute racial representation.”
In its papers Solidarity claimed that the SAPS’s affirmative action plan amounted to social manipulation based on blatant race and gender quotas.
“The plan is not heedful of police members’ skills, and sacrifices service delivery in favour of racial representation. The primary responsibility of the SAPS is not racial transformation but the safety of South African citizens,” Hermann said.
The SAPS case follows on a similar court case that Solidarity brought against the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) on behalf of five members. The DCS had applied the ideology of racial representation so harshly as to apply the national race demographics to the Western Cape. The DCS’s plan stipulated that coloured South Africans should form only 8,8% of the DCS workforce in the Western Cape, while they constituted some 53% of the economically active population in that province. This means that promotion for coloured employees in the DCS has become almost impossible since they are to be “managed down” from 53% to 9%.
“The problem is that this idea of absolute racial representation is being implemented in practice so widely that employers are beginning to believe it is the proper thing to do. Solidarity wants to petition the court to give its verdict on the question of whether this practice is allowed by the Employment Equity Act and the Constitution of South Africa.
“The irony is that this racial ideology is hitting ordinary South Africans the hardest: people who are victims of poor service in various areas, including poor policing service. Most of the victims are black South Africans who really should have benefited from affirmative action,” Hermann said.
Court dates for both cases are still awaited.