Race-based assistance for tourism businesses lawful - but Solidarity to appeal

Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann. The union says it will approach the Constitutional Court urgently to decide whether the granting of relief to struggling businesses on the basis of race is constitutional.
Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann. The union says it will approach the Constitutional Court urgently to decide whether the granting of relief to struggling businesses on the basis of race is constitutional.
Image: Solidarity/Twitter

Solidarity on Thursday said it would urgently approach the Constitutional Court over whether the granting of relief to struggling businesses on the basis of race was constitutional.

The union said this decision follows a judgment by the high court in Pretoria on Thursday that the tourism department's decision to use race as a criterion for granting relief from the tourism relief fund — set up to assist tourism businesses affected by Covid-19 — is not unlawful.

AfriForum and Solidarity went to court to review the decision on the department's use of race as a benchmark for the awarding of relief to tourism enterprises. The matter was heard on Tuesday.

“It is imperative that SA gets legal certainty on whether, in a state of disaster, the constitution allows for discrimination based on race in order to qualify for relief.

“Solidarity is going to request access to the Constitutional Court. As the crisis is urgent, we believe the matter, too, is urgent,” Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said.

Solidarity said judge Jody Kollapen ruled that the criterion used by the department did not perpetuate an unfair advantage for some candidates over others based on race, but rather had the effect of providing those candidates with a head start.

Solidarity also filed a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission on March 25 after the government had announced that race, rather than distress, would be the determining factor for the allocation of relief funds.

“It is sad that Solidarity now has to turn to the Constitutional Court because the government is set to continue with the discriminatory race criterion it imposed to qualify for emergency relief.

“This action by government cannot be justified in any way, and therefore Solidarity will not leave it at that,” Hermann said.

Attempts to get comment from the tourism department were unsuccessful. This story will be updated.

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