The madness of race politics in South Africa was once again brought to the fore this week when it emerged that a coloured man in the Western Cape was accused of ‘fraud’ for saying he was African on his CV.

Glen Snyman, a teacher from Oudtshoorn, had applied for a job as a principal. In his CV he stated that his race was ‘African,’ rather than ‘coloured’. Although he had applied for the post in 2017 (he was unsuccessful in his application) the Western Cape Department of Education informed him at the end of last month that he would now face disciplinary charges.

The charge sheet allegedly stated: ‘You committed a common law offence, to wit fraud, by stating on your CV when applying for the principal post at Fezekile Secondary School that you are an African male, whereas in truth your records indicate that you are a coloured male and by doing so gain an advantage for purposes of being shortlisted.’

Subsequently, Western Cape MEC for education, Debbie Schäfer released a statement expressing shock that her department was charging Snyman, and saying its rationale was ‘anathema’ to her. Later it was reported that the province’s education department had dropped its charges against Snyman.

Snyman is apparently also something of an activist, being the founder of an organisation called People Against Race Classification. In a 2015 interview, Snyman said that race classification created ‘division, stereotyping and hatred among people’ and that South Africa should not classify people as it had during apartheid. He had also previously started a campaign to encourage coloured, Indian, and white South Africans to state they were ‘Black Africans’ when filling in forms requiring demographic data.

In a perverse way it is something of a pity that Snyman is not from a province that is not governed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), a party which recently (to much gnashing of teeth and clutching of pearls among the chattering classes) affirmed its commitment to non-racialism. In any one of the other eight provinces which are governed by the African National Congress (ANC), it is an open question whether an MEC would have taken the same line as Schäfer.

Long overdue

But a stunt like this is long overdue. Since the scrapping of the Population Registration Act in 1991 South Africa has no way of officially determining what a person’s race is. This has created some problems, given the enactment of race-based legislation and policy in South Africa. Some in the new cottage industry of B-BBEE Verification have suggested that, when a dispute arises, technology such as ‘genetic testing’ could be used in ‘determining’ race. ‘The question would then be: what percentage is required before you can declare yourself black?’

But do we want to be a society so dystopian that we use genetic testing to determine the race of individuals before they can benefit from government policies?

A continued focus on race also leads to bizarre and demeaning spectacles. Before the 2015 Rugby World Cup there was debate around whether Damian de Allende was white or coloured? His father confirmed he was indeed white. But is that where we want to be as a country?

A simple way to not follow this nightmare scenario of genetic testing is to end racial classification as the means of determining who in society is entitled to certain benefits and who isn’t. Rest assured, there will be more people who say their race is not what it is perceived to be in order to gain benefits. As South Africa continues to regress economically and black South Africans are perceived to be accruing benefits other races do not have (whether true or not), we will see more Snymans.

Morass

It is an open question whether B-BBEE has even benefited those it was ostensibly designed to help. Black South Africans still lag other races (particularly white South Africans) in all socio-economic indicators. And it’s unlikely that even more BEE and race-based policy will pull South Africa out of the morass it finds itself in, or pull millions out of poverty.

Others have written on these pages about why BEE and race-based policies fail to actually benefit ordinary South Africans, and distort prices. Furthermore, when we break inequality down by race group, the highest in-group inequality is found among black South Africans. Between 2006 and 2015 the only group in which inequality grew was black South Africans – white and Indian South Africans saw their in-group inequality decline, while for coloured South Africans it stayed constant.

Overall, inequality declined slightly for that period. This would suggest that a relatively small group of black South Africans is benefiting from race-based policies. In fact, if every white South African and their wealth disappeared tomorrow inequality in South Africa would rise, rather than decline.

It’s time to look at a new policy to help the disadvantaged, one which is not based simply on race. And this idea seems to be gaining traction. Mmusi Maimane’s One South Africa movement recently released policy proposals which argue for such an alternative, and Herman Mashaba and his ActionSA have made similar noises.

But as long as benefits are (perceived) as being doled out on the basis of race, with black South Africans ostensibly being the primary beneficiaries, Glen Snyman won’t be the last person to commit ‘fraud’ regarding his racial identity.

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Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

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Marius Roodt
Marius Roodt is currently deputy editor of the Daily Friend and also consults on IRR campaigns. This is his second stint at the Institute, having returned after spells working at the Centre for Development and Enterprise and a Johannesburg-based management consultancy. He has also previously worked as a journalist, an analyst for a number of foreign governments, and spent most of 2005 and 2006 driving a scooter around London. Roodt holds an honours degree from the Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg) and an MA in Political Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand.

9 COMMENTS

  1. The Great Socioeconomic Divide in South Africa is not between ‘Whites’ and evrryone else, it is between the Bureaucratic Class and everyone else.

    Government, their political and labour union ‘allies’ , connected people in the form of family, friends and ‘business’ cronies, and their ‘Cadre Deployment’ to top positions in SOE’s and government departments are the real benificiaries of elitist nepotism and the Patronage Network, which consumes about 60% of public resources.

    The ideological underpinnings are redress for ‘Apartheid’ and it’s enablemt is the Constitutional povrision for ‘Fair Discrimination’ on the grounds of race, from which BEE draws muster.

    As noted by the article, this lays bare the blatent hippocrisy of the Rainbow Nation.
    Being a ‘Non Racial South Africa’ there is no Population Registration Act, and no official racial classification of any individual citizen.
    So who then, are the ‘Blacks’, referred to by BEE?
    The plain as day answer would be the ruling elite, not blacks in general, whom BEE was supposed to serve, no matter how supposedly ‘Broad Based’

    Then the government would claim that the economy is not ‘inclusive’ presumably that it does not include blacks, implying that the Private Sector resists the inclusion of blacks due to it’s endemic ‘racism’ and needs tp be forced through “Strengthening” BEE.
    All the while their being no officialy designated black persons.
    Who are they talking about ?
    The Apartheid regime faced the same dilemma in attempts to officially designate a ‘Bantu’ person.
    The results border upon the surreal.

    “A White person is one who is in appearance obviously white – and not generally accepted as Coloured – or who is generally accepted as White – and is not obviously Non-White, provided that a person shall not be classified as a White person if one of his natural parents has been classified as a Coloured person or a Bantu…”

    “A Bantu is a person who is, or is generally accepted as, a member of any aboriginal race or tribe of Africa…”

    “A Coloured is a person who is not a White person or a Bantu…”

  2. No matter what legislation is put in place there will be no opportunity in the senior ranks of business for those who are incapable of understanding what happens there and are incapable of adding value.

    And this state of affairs exists as a direct result of the government policy of closing all training colleges, shutting down the artisan training schemes, removing the inspectorate from the schooling system and downgrading the pass requirements, since the mid 1990’s.

    Having destroyed nearly all means of self improvement for those who rely on the public schooling, the government whips up racial tensions by demanding and enforcing ridiculous concessions from the creators of the nations wealth.

    • You are 100% correct. Regarding the schooling system: too few SCHOOLS OF SKILL, for those learners who are more practical and could be taught a trade. With these skills, they could become entrepreneurs and not unemployed like many learners who drop out of school as they did not get placement in a School of Skill

  3. The unpleasant truth is that the black majority government through race legislation and regulation and supported by the majority of the black electorate after three decades of wasted majority rule discriminates against the minorities to varying degrees in defiance of the RSA constitution and international law.

    Minorities have the choice of accepting, mitigating the consequences, emigrating or putting their own differences aside and considering self-determination.

    Sadly the case for self-determination is prinarily based on race, as is emigration and the various noble and brave initiatives to mitigate, not because the minorities desire it to be so but because the ANC/EFF leadership and their supporters make it so.

    Should the ANC reject race as the DA has done it will effectively nullify the major criteria for self-determination and relegate corruption, crime, urban and rural insecurity etc. to governance issues. President Ramaphosa would conceivably even win over a number of votes due to his personal popularity and efforts at restoring good governance.

    However the ANC/EFF’s 75 percent election based mandate is clear. Consequently the minority 25 percent and particularly those who claim to represent them need to seriously consider their intended political direction and evaluate the real impact of their interventions.

  4. “Since the scrapping of the Population Registration Act in 1991 South Africa has no way of officially determining what a person’s race is.”
    If that is true doesn’t that invalidate all of the BEE stuff and make it unconstitutional?

  5. ‘When will we ever learn?’

    The purpose of the ‘struggle’ was to remove racial discrimination.

    Really?

    Or was it, the STRUGGLE, merely a moral ‘smoke screen’ to cover up the ‘lust for power and self enrichment’?

    Similar to the BEE and AA policies? Just another moral ‘smoke screen’ to cover up the same ‘lust for power and self enrichment’? Just a ‘scheme’ to loot state coffers!

    Billions of dollars have been looted that had been allocated to another MORAL QUEST … ‘saving people’s lives from the COVID pandemic’!

    The lesson is: Whenever the ANC gangster regime present any “moral quest” we must expose their evil conspiracy of ‘lust for power and self enrichment’.

    We should fear all criminal’s … but for those extremely evil criminals that use ‘morality’ as disguise, we should be terrified of!

    The ‘wolf in sheep’ clothes’!

    ‘ … all animals are equal … but some are more equal …”

  6. Individuals and societies don’t all change with the times at a uniform rate. In this day and age, rapid scientific progress has challenged many superstitions and prejudices. Some people have accepted the modern fact and evidence based discoveries and abandoned or attempted to abandom “traditional’ outdated stereotypes and prejudices based on race, gender, religion. etc. Others, who dare one say, are more ” primitive” are resisting the modern reality and are desperately fueling the anti science movement because modern science contradicts so many of their beliefs. Institutionalised racism is absurd nowadays because the fact is that there is no significant difference whatsoever between humans who have differing skin pigmentation. The LGBT movement has exposed the fundamental cruelty of discrimination based on gender stereotypes. Outdated religious prejudice and bigotry has ruined millions of lives in Syria, Palestine, Nigeria for example where religion is an underlying driver of social conflict. Over population and destruction of the natural world is largely due to biblical imperatives giving humans domain over everything (birds, fish, animals etc) and Catholic prohibition of contraception.
    The only intervention that can limit this self destructive behaviour in the long term is to intensify education that enables the general public to keep up with the effect of the extremely rapid increase in reliable human knowledge. If this is not done, I fear that extreme prejudice like displayed by the Islamist beheading of a teacher in France or the apparent racist murder in Senekal will become more prevalent as the gap between those who rely on modern fact and evidence based knowledge and those that insist on outdated superstition and folklaw widens rapidly.
    South Africa should leap ahead of much of the world and legally ban any and all forms of racial classification for any purpose whatsoever.

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