SADTU Western Cape’s weighs in on the debate of on educator who was charged for identifying himself as African

20 October 2020

Recently, the public was embroiled in a matter of an educator being charged for taking a conscious decision to proclaim that he is an African.  

SADTU does not have a history on commenting on individual cases, like we have not gone public on the Neumann matter, notwithstanding the fact that it is well known that we represented Neumann at the schedule 8 consultation, prehearing and consultation with his legal team.

Many of us have made a conscious decision not to identify with the racial classification as prescribed by the Apartheid regime. We regard ourselves as black, African, South African.

This deep consciousness has not been changed with the advent of democracy, we still hold the same beliefs.

On the other side of the spectrum, some people embrace the ethnic classification of Coloured, Khoisan, African, Xhosa, Zulu, White, Camissa African, Korana African, Griqua, European, Afrikaner, etc.   

In a country with a diverse history these anomalies will and do exist. So, where does it leave us? This is a matter that needs to be discussed and debated in the country as we strive for unity, cohesion and work to achieve social justice in our society. What we cannot deny is that we come from an era that brought about injustice and disparity.

The unfortunate, insensitive and illicit preferring of a disciplinary fraud charge against an employee, for merely identifying himself as African of the WCED, though later withdrawn, offends the constitutional values enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa Act, 1996.

The employee referred to himself as African on his CV when applying for employment. Article 9 of the Bill of Rights entitles the employee to not only equality before the law but to also equal protection and benefit of the law.

The definition section in the Employment Equity Act, 1998 (EEA) defines the phrase ‘black people’ as a generic term referring to African, Coloured and Indian.

It will suffice to state at this stage that the EEA was enacted as a legislative measure by Parliament to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination and to advance the employment rights of the designated groups, of which the educator no doubt forms part.

In charging him with fraud for stating that he is an African and not supposedly Coloured, presupposes that the framers of the charge still live in the past and are completely out of kilter with our constitutional values and laws governing this country.

A cursory glance at our constitutional framework, Employment Equity Act, 1998 and the Employment of Educators Act, 1998, will have informed the framers of the charge, that to charge the educator lands them in a deluge of race discrimination, prejudice and denial of a basic human right for one to be who they want to be, without being capriciously ‘catalogued’ into race based classifications of the defunct classification systems and associated population register of the apartheid era.

The DA government must do some introspection if their current Head of Education is ultimately ready to accept the laws governing the country and employment of employees in particular in this country. If it’s out of ignorance, it will be pardonable on pain of a serious warning, but if it’s intentional deviation from our laws and prescripts, the authorities in the province must come down on such people like a ton of bricks (on delivery thereof).

The need for affirmative action to redress imbalances of the past has been articulated and supported by the courts of the land, the inclusive of the Constitutional Court. It’s not even debatable under our current constitutional dispensation.

The intention of the Employment Equity Act and affirmative action is to address the injustices of Apartheid. The DA MEC comments are opportunistic, since they do not adhere to the Employment Equity principles and have not been addressing the injustice of the past and bringing about transformation of the Western Cape Education Department, since the majority of their SMS is pale and male.

The DA’s stance has always been to polarise our communities with their fit for purpose posture, which undermines the national legislation and tenant of the constitution.

The impression the DA MEC creates is that the employment Equity is out of the window and it’s a free for all.

Punitive employment equity measures will kill growth and jobs, was the caption of Dr Michael Cardo MP – DA Shadow Minister for Employment and Labour in 2019. The same shadow minister in 2020 says “Instead of focusing on racial bean-counting, the government should worry more about growing the pool of skilled black professionals and developing a pipeline of promotion in the workplace”.

Hence the DA MEC saw the opportunity to poach on the matter and push the DA agenda on Employment Equity.  As SADTU we are NOT fooled by this sudden “come to the educator’s rescue” spin doctoring, by MEC Shafer. 

Let us remember that she said “And we will not tolerate victimisation of people who do not conform to an artificial and arbitrary classification of who they are deemed to be”.

We should ask her the question so what do you say about addressing the imbalance of the past, because her department’s adherence to their own employment equity plan is “anathema” to me too.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Western Cape Secretariat

CONTACT:

Provincial Secretary, Jonavon Rustin: 083 633 5714

Deputy Provincial Secretary, Sibongile Kwazi: 083 627 8006