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JOHANNESBURG - Solidarity has won an appeal made to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) about South African Airways (SAA) excluding white males from cadet their programme.

According to a statement from Solidarity, "This finding reverses a previous one made by the HRC’s Gauteng provincial office namely that the programme did not appear to be unlawful. In its ruling the HRC writes that as the courts caution a fine balance has to be maintained when it comes to the design and implementation of affirmative action programmes so as to prevent unfair harm being done to white South Africans."

According to the HRC, affirmative action must promote social cohesion and reconciliation, and not deepen division. 

Solidarity say that they contended that SAA’s cadet programme was not flexible and represented a rigid quota system. According to Solidarity’s appeal, the SAA programme was neither rational nor fair, and due to its inflexibility the programme did not pass the test of fairness.

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According to Solidarity Chief Executive Dr Dirk Hermann, this ruling is a major victory. 

“This was a long battle but it was worth the while. The SAA has been found guilty of unfair racial discrimination and, judged against the Constitution and basic requirements for fair human rights, it did not pass the test. Unfortunately, their actions caused irreparable damage to young white people who had been excluded from the programme. We trust though that this ruling will pave the way so other young people’s dreams are not destroyed because of their race,” Hermann said. 

The cadet programme has since been terminated but the HRC held that it was in the public interest that the merit of the case be dealt with. Solidarity has recently made submissions to the HRC on appropriate steps against the SAA.  The HRC said that they referred the matter to the Gauteng provincial office to further deal with it.