LETTER: Disadvantage, not race - Business Day, 30 June 2017

A person’s race is what he declares it to be. The Constitution allows measures to promote the achievement of equality that are "designed to protect or advance persons … disadvantaged by unfair discrimination.…"

 

By Sara Gon 

Henry Watermeyer (Race is on for right name, June 27) asks how black investors are going to be determined by the JSE. Empowerment legislation defines "black people" as Africans, coloureds and Indians. But there is no legal basis for deciding a person’s race.

The cornerstone of apartheid was the Population Registration Act of 1950. This legislative obscenity ordered every person to be classified as white, coloured or "native". "Every coloured person and every native" also had to be classified according to the "ethnic or other group to which he belongs". A "coloured" was "a person who is not a white person or a native". A "native" was "a person who in fact is or is generally accepted as a member of any aboriginal race or tribe of Africa". A "white person" was "a person who in appearance obviously is, or who is generally accepted as, a white person but does not include a person who, although in appearance obviously is a white person, is generally accepted as a coloured person". A person who "in appearance obviously is a white person shall for the purposes of this act be presumed to be a white person until the contrary is proved".

Monty Python could not have invented this! Now classification is voluntary. A person’s race is what he declares it to be. The Constitution allows measures to promote the achievement of equality that are "designed to protect or advance persons … disadvantaged by unfair discrimination.…" The Institute of Race Relations has long promoted economic empowerment for the disadvantaged. "Disadvantage" is fair and objectively determinable.

*Sara Gon is a policy fellow Institute of  the Race Relations, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. 

Read letter on Business Day here

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