The Department of Small Business Development has given Solidarity an undertaking in court papers under oath not to continue using race criteria when it grants assistance to businesses.
In contrast, the Department of Tourism, also in court papers, argued that it would continue to use race as criterion for granting assistance. Solidarity and the Department of Tourism will meet in the Northern Gauteng High Court on 28 April where using this race criterion for assistance will be challenged.
According to Dr Dirk Hermann, Solidarity chief executive, it would seem that government is divided against itself when it comes to using race as a criterion for granting assistance during the Covid-19 crisis.
“The fact that the Department of Small Business Development will do away with race as criterion is a tactical victory. This was achieved thanks to a combination of public pressure and legal action. Solidarity will assume a watchdog role to strictly ensure that the Department does not, in practice, still use race as a criterion. Solidarity now has an undertaking under oath and can go straight to court if race is still being used as a criterion.
Meanwhile, Solidarity will not let up on its court action against the Department of Tourism. Our fight against race-based assistance will only be successful if all government institutions do away with their race criteria,” Hermann contended.
Solidarity earlier lodged a complaint against the Department of Small Business Development and the Department of Tourism with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). Solidarity also instigated legal action against both departments.
In opposing documents, the Department of Small Business Development gave final confirmation that race is not a criterion for eligibility for emergency funding. According to them, the questions regarding race on their online application form are merely for statistical records. Solidarity calls on businesses that do not receive funding because of race to call Solidarity urgently.
“Although we won the battle against the Department of Small Business Development, we are still engaged in the fight against the Department of Tourism. The Tourism Department’s defence is that they must still comply with black economic empowerment requirements. The virus does not discriminate, and the need has not arisen because of race. However, unlike the virus, the Department of Tourism has decided to discriminate on the basis of race,” Hermann said.
“The corona crisis has no place for racial discrimination. Emergency aid may not become racially based aid. Solidarity is ready to fight the Department of Tourism’s racially based aid on 28 April. This pandemic affects us all; we cannot allow assistance to not be available to everyone,” Hermann concluded.