South Africa–Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights–Racial Discrimination and Equality–August 2017

The Advocates for Human Rights, together with the Camissa Movement for Equality, submitted a suggested list of issues relating to the rights of Coloured people to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for the 61st Pre-Sessional Working group of the Committee on Economics, Social and cultural Rights (9 October  - 13 October 2017)

South Africa has a long history of de-facto and legalized discrimination against the Coloured community, a distinct ethnic group composed of mixed-race individuals. Following the Apartheid regime, the African National Congress embedded a system of affirmative action into the 1994 Constitution and passed the Employment Equity Act of 1998 (EEA). Both policies were designed to eliminate discrimination, establish equal economic opportunity, and ensure that qualified employees from designated minority groups are equitably represented in all sectors of the workforce. While companies were originally obligated to comply with just one of five provisions included in the EEA, amendments of the legislation have removed all provisions except demographic profile. As a result, employers are now required to  adhere to strict “target percentages" in employment plans. Contrary to the original intent of these policies, numerical targets exclude rather than include members of the Coloured community, because local employers often meet targets based on national rather than regional demographics, resulting in local underrepresentation of Coloured people in the workforce.

South Africa ratified the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 2015, yet falls short of protecting the right to work, right to an adequate standard of living, and cultural rights for the Coloured community. Strict numerical demographic targets prevent equity in employment and violate a Coloured person’s right to work. Additionally, the South African Government has not yet met the population’s affordable housing needs. Notably, human rights defenders report that neighborhoods with high percentages of Coloured people are overcrowded and filled with semi-permanent structures, indicating that Coloured people have the least access to affordable housing and standard of living. Lastly, Coloured people are severely underrepresented on South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the state sponsored media company. Specifically, SABC does not fund any programming geared towards the Coloured community, and does not employ Coloured people as sources therein violating the colored community’s cultural rights. 

This List of Issues Report suggests several questions for the international community to pose to the South African Government, including:

  • What steps will the State Party undertake to develop an employment data tracking system that includes separate indicators of populations, including black, white, and Colored populations? 
  • In line with recent court decisions described in paragraphs 19 and 20, what measures will the StateParty take to ensure that the definition of the term “regional (Employment Equity Act 2014, Section 42.1a) fairly represents the population in the general vicinity of the intended employment opportunity location and ensure the effective implementation of these decisions?
  • Does the State Party commit to publishing and disseminating disaggregated data on the number of housing applications of Coloured people, the length of time on the waiting list, and the number of people placed compared to other populations in relevant statistical and governmental publications? 
  • What steps does the State Party undertake to ensure that applications or state-subsidized housing are evaluated without political, racial, or ethnic bias? What measures will the State Party adopt to detect and eliminate any such discrimination. 
  • What steps will the State Part take to ensure that grants of state-subsidized housing are made in a way that is reasonable and proportionate, taking into account the needs of the Coloured community, particularly in areas where that community is concentrated? 
  • What measures will the Start Part undertake to provide the Coloured population with proportionate access to state media, including the SABC?
  • Will the State Party commit to provide funds for SABC to create a long-term programming strategy that is inclusive of and sensitive to Coloured people for both television and radio?