SAHRC slated for missed deadline in race classification row

Published May 11, 2023


Cape Town - People Against Race Classification (Parc) has criticised the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for missing Parliament’s deadline to come up with a stance on race classification.

Parc petitioned Parliament in 2021 about the removal of the label “coloured” from all official government and private institutions’ documents, saying it is offensive to so-called coloured people.

The organisation is calling for a national debate on the naming and identification of South African citizens.

They want the government to enact legislation that will abolish the use of the word “coloured” from all official government and private institutions; to amend the definition of “African” to include all people who live in and hold South African citizenship; as well as to amend the act to include the definition of “other race”.

This is to make provision for people who do not want to be race classified.

In June last year, the select committee on petitions and executive undertakings, having considered the petition, released a report.

In the report the committee states that it was made aware that there had been previous meetings between the petitioners and the SAHRC.

These resulted in a report where recommendations were made, including that, “The State, through the Presidency and the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), must take steps on or before March 31, 2019 towards the removal of the forceful categorisation of Khoi and San peoples as ‘coloured’.”

The committee's report also states that the apartheid government had previously used racial classification as a tool in state policy to control the population.

According to the report, the minister of employment and labour submitted that all South African citizens are African by virtue of being born and bred in the African continent.

In the same vein, he acknowledges that the coloured group are black and as a result, they are part of the black people as prescribed by the Employment Equity Act, 1998 (EEA).

Following extensive deliberations, the committee recommended a national debate as a strategy in fast-tracking recognition of South African native communities and their identities.

Among others, it also gave the SA Human Rights Commission about six months to research the issues raised and report back to the House.

However, Parc founder Glen Snyman said it’s been well over six months and there’s still been no word from the SAHRC.

“My question is what do we do when a Section 9 institution like the SAHRC starts to ignore instructions of Parliament?

It’s like they don’t care about me or us, if they call you a coloured or what. The Human Rights Commission has lost its moral understanding to discern between what is right and what is wrong,” he said.

The SAHRC said it would respond to requests for comment on Thursday. Parliament did not respond to requests for comment by deadline on Wednesday.

Cape Times