Affirmative Action remains, even though targets in public service has been surpassed

Adv Anton Alberts

There is no sign of a sunset for affirmative action (AA) despite the fact that the demographic targets for positions in the public service has long been surpassed and white and brown minorities are even under-represented.

This appears from an answer of the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, to a question of Adv. Anton Alberts, the FF Plus’ parliamentary spokesperson on Labour.

The question of Adv. Alberts enquires whether affirmative action would be scrapped as the targets for the public service had been reached and surpassed, and if not, how it could be constitutionally justified to continue with the practice. To this Oliphant replied:

“No, I will not consider abolishing Affirmative Action (AA), in the Public Service as the Affirmative Action is not a Public Service Sectoral Determination but a National dispensation. If the Public Service is broadly representative, that should be an inspiration to other sectors and not the reason to abolish the policy.

“The preamble of the Constitution sums up the constitutional rationale of the need for Affirmative Action.”

Adv. Alberts says the reply is very crass and the implication is that AA will remain in place for as long as the ANC governs. There is no attention paid to the fact that there is already an over-representation of black people in the public service.

“This is in contrast with Section 1(4) of the International Treaty on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which determines that as soon as affirmative targets have been reached, the application of AA should be ended.

“Section 195(1) of the Constitution states it very clearly that the public service should broadly represent the South African population composition. This objective has already been surpassed as there is a shortage of white and brown workers in the public service.

“It is untenable that the situation continues. The FF Plus will be bringing the situation to the attention of the CERD committee and ask for a legal opinion. Should the CERD committee share the view of the FF Plus, the party will ask for formal action against the ANC government to stop this discrimination,” Adv. Alberts said.

In October last year (also as a result of a parliamentary question) it already appeared that the targets had been met and that white and brown people were under-represented by half a percentage point. Where whites at the time had made up 9,2% of the country’s population, their representation in the public service was just 8,8%.


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