Solidarity threatens court action if Department of small business uses race for Covid-19 relief

29 April 2020 by ANA Reporter

DURBAN – Trade union Solidarity said on Wednesday it would urgently seek court action if the department of small business development used race for access to emergency Covid-19 relief funds, as the tourism department was doing.

The union wrote to the small business development minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavehni, on Wednesday and “insisted that she should refrain from using race as criterion to qualify for relief funds during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Solidarity’s head of labour law services, Anton van der Bijl.

On Tuesday, Ntshavehni said that race would be considered in the allocation of emergency relief.

Solidarity filed a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on March 25 saying it believed the race requirements to qualify for relief funding were discriminatory.

On March 30, an urgent application was served on Ntshavehni’s department, and the department of tourism – which also said race would be a factor in issuing emergency relief to South Africa’s tourism industry.

Van der Bijl said the department of tourism had subsequently confirmed “under oath that it would not continue to make relief available on the basis of race”.

On Tuesday, Solidarity appeared in the North Gauteng High Court to bring a case against the depart of tourism’s use of a race criterion.

“However, we did not proceed with the case against the department of small business development because court papers received from the department confirmed that it would not use race as criterion,” said the union.

Solidarity chief executive, Dirk Hermann, said it was “shocking” that Ntshavehni was “prepared to declare under oath that race would not be a criterion for the allocation of emergency relief, and now, straight after the department of tourism court case, she confirms it to be a criterion after all. The minister is committing perjury.”

The union would continue with urgent civil action against the department, said Hermann, should it not receive an undertaking by the department by 1pm on Friday that the race criteria would be scrapped.

“The minister’s action is contrary to her oath. We cannot leave it at that. The pandemic does not discriminate, nor do the consequences of the pandemic discriminate, and when it comes to granting relief, we expect the state not to discriminate either,” Hermann said.

African News Agency (ANA)

Source: IOL at https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/economy/solidarity-threatens-court-action-if-dept-of-small-business-uses-race-for-covid-19-relief-47353962