Solidarity’s complaint followed in the wake of the success it had last year when it brought a complaint about quotas in the workplace and in sport to the CERD. File picture: Rogan Ward
Johannesburg – Trade union Solidarity will submit an "early warning complaint" to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva, Switzerland, the union said on Sunday. 

The complaint focused on the potential consequences of racial slurs and hate speech that targetted minorities, Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said.

"There is a particular focus on the inadequacy of government and institutions such as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in this regard. Solidarity’s complaint is lodged in terms of the committee’s early warning and urgent action procedure," he said. 

In its collective complaint, Solidarity requested the CERD to launch a formal inquiry into the matter by requesting information from organisations such as the SAHRC as well as from government, and to send a delegation to South Africa to investigate the situation on the ground. If the CERD agreed on the substance of Solidarity’s complaint, the committee may make recommendations to government and/or refer the matter to the UN Security Council. 

Solidarity’s complaint followed in the wake of the success it had last year when it brought a complaint about quotas in the workplace and in sport to the CERD. As a result, the CERD asked government, among other things, to report on its policies and practices and criticised South Africa’s current dispensation, one that was reminiscent of apartheid. 

The committee was also of the opinion that South Africa’s quota system was too inflexible. Apart from submitting the complaint to the CERD, Solidarity would also this week petition Parliament about the selective way in which racism was being dealt with in South Africa and would file complaints about this matter with the SAHRC, the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC), and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Solidarity would also request the UN’s Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to send a delegation to South Africa to investigate Solidarity’s complaint. 

The complaint directed at the UNHRC contained a request that government provide further information and that Solidarity be given an opportunity to make a submission to the commission. “Our aim with this is to re-establish objectivity in South Africa as far as race is concerned. Dealing with race in a subjective manner has become systemic and it is justified by the system. Because it has become systemic it would be expedient if a watchdog from outside could facilitate a change,” Hermann said. 

The complaint resulted from a Solidarity research report and conference that investigated and analysed the phenomenon of selective racism. The investigation clearly revealed that the occurrence of racism in South Africa was dealt with in a selective manner. The CERD particularly emphasised the importance of a government intervening when elected office-bearers or other government officials were guilty of racial slurs and hate speech, the purpose of such intervention mainly being to protect minorities against agitation by the majority. 

"Solidarity’s complaint takes the form of a collective complaint and focuses in particular on statements and/or actions of persons who have vertical influence, that is, people with authority. South Africa is very tolerant when it comes to racial slurs made by South Africans in positions of power but are totally intolerant when it comes to slurs made by ordinary white South Africans who have no power," Hermann said. 

"Solidarity indicates in its complaint how the SAHRC too handles racism selectively. For example, the SAHRC has not investigated any high profile black South African like [Economic Freedom Fighters leader] Julius Malema, [President] Jacob Zuma, [former minister] Lulu Xingwane, or any other for that matter, but ordinary white South Africans like Penny Sparrow, Chris Hart, and Justin van Vuuren have been investigated at the HRC’s own initiative. 

“We cannot pretend that it is right when Jacob Zuma says all problems started when Jan van Riebeeck arrived in the country and then uses it to find justification for all problems, even protest actions against Zuma, by blaming white people. We cannot remain silent when Julius Malema says his aim is to disturb white people’s peace and white people must realise that they are only visitors here. That is xenophobic language. We cannot allow it when a mathematics teacher Tlou Molele says being white is a genetic fault, and we also cannot allow that the many other examples that feature in our complaint and report are ignored. 

"One thing that is even worse than the statements themselves is to keep quiet about them in the hope that they, and the consequences they have, would disappear. We cannot allow any group in South Africa to be regarded as unwanted or that they are being criminalised or dehumanised. The time has come for us to provide an early warning to the international watchdogs about these occurrences and the possible consequences of such slurs,” Hermann said. 

African News Agency