SAPS/Solidarity affirmative action legal battle continues


Solidarity’s ongoing battle with the SA Police Service (SAPS) and other government departments over affirmative action appointments has found support in a Johannesburg Labour Court judgement regarding a case the trade union did not initiate.

The judgement, Solidarity’s Dirk Groenewald, said was “damning in that it termed the SAPS affirmative action plan a quota system”.

The court ruled the applicant, an Indian woman, had to be appointed with retrospective effect to the position she applied for. She was previously denied the position due to an affirmative action policy Groenewald said.
“While Solidarity did not bring this specific case to the labour court, the judgement paves the way for our numerous cases against SAPS.
“This ruling is consistent with the Employment Equity act which rejects the use of quotas. According to the verdict, a quota system in practice results in the creation of degrees of prejudice which are not permissible.”

Seven months ago Solidarity served papers to the same court asking it to declare SAPS’ affirmative action plan invalid. The trade union highlighted the application of quotas in accordance with national racial demographics.

The action followed 17 separate court cases brought by Solidarity against SAPS, including that of Renate Barnard. In this particular case the Centurion-headquartered union has been granted leave to appeal against a labour court ruling.
“We decided to first approach the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) before applying to the Constitutional Court as we want clarity on certain legal issues. We feel the SCA will focus more on legal issues, such as the SAPS’s non-compliance with legislation, than on the constitutional aspects of the case. It will also be advantageous for other affirmative action cases we have brought against government, Solidary deputy secretary Dirk Hermann said.

Barnard’s affirmative action battle dates back to 2005. She applied for the same position twice and was identified as the best candidate and recommended by the interview panel on both occasions. The position was left vacant and advertised for a third time. It was withdrawn after she reapplied.

Commenting on the Johannesburg ruling Groenewald said: “The mathematical racial approach where posts are categorised according to race first and then gender undermine the constitutional goal of equality. Instead of promoting non-racialism it results in a perverse rivalry between race groups”.