• Ros Nightingale

SAHRC probing complaint regarding coloured teacher’s self-classification as ’African’

IOL - CAPE TIMESNEWS / 21 OCTOBER 2020 - 05.30 / STAFF REPORTER



Cape Town – The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is assessing a complaint regarding a teacher’s self-classification as “African” after his race had already been officially recorded as “Coloured”.


In a statement, the SAHRC said it would ’’further seek to establish whether the official use of apartheid-era racial categories leads to human rights violations’’.


Glen Snyman Picture: Facebook



It acknowledged that ’’special measures are necessary in various contexts to redress both past and new forms of unfair discrimination based on race, ethnicity and other prohibited grounds of discrimination’’, but that it should be ’’flexible enough to cater for evolving societal nuances as South Africa pursues the transformative constitutional objectives of equality, human dignity and freedom’’.


Glen Snyman, a teacher at Grootkraal Primary School in Oudtshoorn, was charged with fraud after he had allegedly identified himself as “African” on his CV for a position at another school in 2017, but had indicated “Coloured” on other documents. His application was unsuccessful.

But after hearing about the case, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer ordered a probe into the circumstances and found that Snyman has been identifying as “African” for years, which “is extremely personal and sensitive”, the Cape Times reported. The charge has since been dropped.


Snyman has been challenging the government’s race classification system for more than a decade, and also founded the civil organisation People Against Race Classification.

’’The Commission is in the process of assessing the complaint in terms of its Complaints Handling Procedures and will further seek to establish whether the official use of apartheid-era racial categories leads to human rights violations," the SAHRC said.

’’In assessing the complaint, the Commission will also consider that the charges brought against the teacher by the Western Cape Education Department, have since been withdrawn.


’’The South African government uses a system of racial self-classification for purposes of gathering data for the national Census.

’’However, at the same time, government uses apartheid-era racial categorisations to pursue and measure redress of unfair discrimination, through special measures aimed at achieving greater substantive equality.

’’Special measures include, for example, employment equity and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment schemes. The Commission acknowledges that special measures are necessary in various contexts to redress both past and new forms of unfair discrimination based on race, ethnicity and other prohibited grounds of discrimination.


’’Special measures are required in various socio-economic spheres, including education, housing and land redistribution, in order to achieve social justice.

’’However, special measures should be flexible enough to cater for evolving societal nuances as South Africa pursues the transformative constitutional objectives of equality, human dignity and freedom.

’’A delicate balance therefore falls to be struck between the need to promote human dignity by recognising the importance of self-identifying, while simultaneously developing and implementing special measures holistically to achieve substantive equality.


’’The Commission notes the interest of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services in this matter and will keep the Portfolio Committee informed as it proceeds to assess the complaint and, further, inquire into the official use of race categorisations in South Africa more broadly.’’

Snyman said last week the matter had taken a serious toll on him emotionally and wanted to discuss the matter with the WCED.

Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Hammond said they would engage with Snyman to enable them to accurately record his personal details.

“As national legislation requires an employment equity score to be given to each candidate during the recruitment process, which is based on race and gender in order to meet employment equity targets, this information is required on job application forms.


“We have since been made aware that Mr Snyman identifies himself as ‘African’ and has been fighting the current government’s race classification system for a number of years.

“This is extremely personal and sensitive. While we believe that we must continue to redress the injustices of the past, we have reviewed the case and believe it does not warrant further action.

“It has, however, raised a number of issues with regards to race classification and identity that will require deeper discussion and reflection,” Hammond said.


Schäfer told the Cape Argus last week: ’’We will not tolerate victimisation of people who do not conform to an artificial and arbitrary classification of who they are deemed to be… On the face of it, it does not appear to be in line with what this administration stands for.”

On their website, the People Against Race Classification says: “As a protest against race classification criteria, we ask you to tick the ‘ Black African’ block on all forms that require it.”


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LINK : https://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/news/sahrc-probing-complaint-regarding-coloured-teachers-self-classification-as-african-62ada887-62b5-4b14-80c7-006ab5decacf


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