South African Chinese can now enjoy the full benefits of black economic empowerment (BEE) after Pretoria high court Judge Cynthia Pretorius ruled that they fall within the definition of black people in the Constitution.
The ruling means Chinese people now qualify for Employment Equity and broad-based BEE.
The application, brought by the Chinese Association of South Africa (Casa), was not opposed by the state and a draft order was made an order of the court.
Judge Pretorius also ordered the state to pay the applicants' legal costs.
The respondents were Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Brigitte Mabandla, Minister of Labour Membathisi Mdladlana and Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa.
The ruling is the culmination of a nine-year struggle by Casa to obtain clarity from the government on whether South African Chinese, classified as coloured during the apartheid era, qualify for benefits in terms of Employment Equity and broad-based black economic empowerment legislation.
Casa chairman Patrick Chong said Chinese suffered the same discrimination as blacks before 1994. So they should automatically qualify for the same benefits afforded to the "coloured group after 1994".
Visibly emotional after the ruling and with tears welling up in his eyes, Chong said it was like voting for the first time.
"It (ruling) means we are finally South Africans and that this is where we have a future," he said. "For nine years we fought for recognition. I still cannot believe that it is finally over.
"The high court was the last resort because we negotiated with the government in vain.
"The government actually asked us to go to court to get a ruling."
Chong said though his origins were Chinese, he was proud to be a South African.
Representing Casa was internationally renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos, assisted by advocate Alfred Cockerel and lawyer George van Niekerk.
"We filed the papers and gave the ministers extensive time to make up their minds on what they wanted to do," Bizos said.
"They eventually, I think, got good legal advice that it was not worth their while to oppose.
"Democracy and fundamental human rights have to be defended and made applicable to all of us whatever our colour or background."