Renate Barnard case in Labour Appeal Court - Solidarity

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 2, 2011

By Dirk Hermann

One of SA's biggest affirmative action cases comes before Labour Appeal Court on Wednesday

Solidarity, on behalf of Captain Renate Barnard, and SAPS to face off in court

The South African Police Service (SAPS) and Solidarity will face off in the Labour Appeal Court in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, this coming Wednesday (4 May) at 10:00. The case in which Solidarity is representing Captain Renate Barnard has been carrying on for more than five years. This landmark affirmative action case may change the way affirmative action is applied in South Africa. The Labour Court has already ruled in favour of Barnard, but the SAPS appealed the ruling.

"The big test in the case is whether absolute representivity can be enforced through affirmative action at all costs. The case will show if affirmative action outweighs service delivery," Dirk Hermann, Deputy General Secretary of Solidarity, said.

In Barnard's case, Commissioner Jackie Selebi, former police chief, intervened and prohibited her appointment in a new key position at the police's national inspectorate, the complaints investigation division, in Pretoria.

A selection panel identified Barnard as the best candidate for the post of superintendent in the inspectorate - created to improve service delivery to the public - on two occasions. The inspectorate investigates complaints on service delivery received from the public.

The post was advertised in September 2005. Barnard and several other candidates applied for it. After interviews had been held, the selection panel allocated a mark of 86,67% to her, which was 17,5% higher than the mark allocated to a Captain Shibambu, the only other serious candidate.

The panel found that the difference in Barnard and Shibambu's scores was so great that service delivery would be jeopardised if Shibambu was appointed in the post. They recommended Barnard for the position, but Assistant Commissioner Rasegatla, the divisional commissioner, decided it should be left vacant due to considerations relating to affirmative action.

The post was, however, advertised again a year later and Barnard reapplied for it. A selection panel once again identified her as the only realistic candidate. This time Rasegatla decided that she should be appointed in the post. In his recommendation to Selebi, he pointed out that other candidates who could have promoted representivity had had a year to improve in order to compete with her, but had not improved sufficiently.

According to court documents, Rasegatla wrote to Selebi that failure to give her recognition and to appoint her in the post was likely to send her the wrong message.

Selebi nevertheless turned down her appointment on the grounds that it would not promote affirmative action. He subsuequently withdrew the post.

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