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Gatvol to launch class action over discrimination at the Dept of Labour

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Civil society organisation, Gatvol Capetonian has vowed to fight tooth and nail until the Department of Labour is held accountable for its alleged failure to employ coloured people in the Western Cape. The movement has plans to launch a class action lawsuit against the state after the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) found that discrimination against coloured applicants at the Labour Department’s offices in Mitchells Plain constituted a human rights violation. The Commission said the issue of unfair discrimination must be further investigated.

Speaking to VOC on Tuesday, Gatvol Capetonian leader Fadiel Adams indicated that the provincial manager of the Department of Labour in the Western Cape has repeatedly lied and been contradicted by other officials within the Department. Adams feels that local coloureds have been abused by the government.

“We have been abused. We have been systemically abused by this government and we won’t stand for this anymore,” said Adams.

“The provincial manager of the Department of Labour was found lying three or four times. Unapologetically lying…they [the Department] said that looking at their demographic requirements, nothing was wrong.”

“He even said they received no CV’s from Mitchells plain [but] his human resources manager – not knowing about the previous discussion – said they received about 1080 CVs from Mitchells Plain.”

The Western Cape’s so-called coloured community has for years raised issue regarding unfair discrimination perpetrated against them as far as employment opportunities and job promotion are concerned. However, the issue has never been taken up earnestly by government.

SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen said in light of a lack of access to the full documentation relevant to the matter relating to the allegations of unfair discrimination in the Department of Labour, the commission will conduct a “full and thorough” investigation.

“This organisation [Gatvol Capetonian] came to us and we had an initial meeting between the Department of Labour and Gatvol Capetonian,” said Nissen.

“…I could not get all the details, such as the panel meeting minutes which influenced the panel to make a certain decision with regard to the applications in the Mitchells Plain area and across that region.”

“In light of our initial observations of what happened in Mitchells Plain and what we’ve heard of what allegedly happened, we must do a full and thorough investigation into the Department of Labour in the Western Cape.”

Nissen added that while the primary focus of this investigation is into the Department of Labour, the SAHRC is aware of many other similar cases and allegations being made in several other industries and sectors.

“It is not only in the Department of Labour. We are inundated with complaints. We look at Drakenstein Correctional Services, where out of 30 people only three coloured people were appointed…”

“The failure to apply the demographics within the Western Cape and trying to ensure a balance across the province is a problem for us. It creates problems with regards to building good social cohesion. It creates a further rift between coloured and African people,” said Nissen.

“What influenced the decision for front-line desk service people [in the Mitchells Plain case] was that you don’t appoint people from Mitchells Plain to those offices. So, we felt that there needs to be a further investigation into this because it was also alleged that subsequent to this whole discussion, interns also were appointed of which out of 39, only three were coloured…If that is the pattern that the Western Cape Labour Department is following, it warrants a full scale investigation.”

Adams said they are “very happy” with the interim outcome of the SAHRC.

“It was a slow and frustrating process, but we always knew that the truth was on our side,” said Adams.

“We’ve known for years now that this is happening, but we could never prove it because whenever you ask questions of certain departments, they refer you to various Acts – which they know we don’t have the money to investigate.”

“The SAHRC has done a good job and we’re very happy. We are committed to taking further steps against this department.”

Adams plans to follow through with this case and has appealed for all coloured individuals who applied to the Department of Labour for a job within the last 18 months to come forward.

“This department has to be investigated. Our attorneys have received all our documents. Now, we have the task of getting all these people who have applied, together. We need to get their affidavits, their statements, their CVs and certified copies of their IDs… The attorney will then submit to the equality court.”

“If a custodian of the Employment Equity Act can abuse and violate our people, I expect everyone else will do it. This is what we’re taking forward.”

The Department of Labour declined to comment.


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