IN A landmark ruling, the Pretoria High Court (South Africa) ruled on Thursday that South Africa’s 10000 strong ethnic Chinese community are now black people.
They have been incorporated in the definition of “black people” for purposes of black economic empowerment status.
This follows a 2007 application brought against the Minister of Labour, Minister of Trade and Industry and Minister of Justice by the Chinese Association of South Africa, a private organisation representing the interests of South Africans of Chinese descent.
The South African government originally opposed the motion, but in April this year withdrew its intention to fight the case.
This a culmination of an eight-year battle by the association to get South African Chinese included as a racial category disadvantaged by apartheid, reports say.
This makes them eligible to benefit from legislation such as the Employment Equity (EE) Act and the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Act.
Both pieces of legislation aim to address the historical imbalances caused by apartheid, by implementing affirmative action measures to advantage what the legislation deems to be ‘disadvantaged groups’.
The basis of the court application rested on how the legislation defined these ‘disadvantaged groups’, and specifically, whether Chinese South Africans should be included.
Under apartheid, Chinese were classified as “coloured” in terms of the Population Registration Act.
Reports say, in the court papers, the applicants presented extensive evidence detailing the ways in which discriminatory legislation operated against the Chinese under apartheid.
The association’s lawyers, including renowned human rights advocate George Bizos, SC, argued that like other designated “coloureds”, Chinese people were discriminated against in several areas, such as education, employment, ownership of property, and voting rights.
The government was ordered to pay the applicants’ costs.
Chairman of the Chinese Association of South Africa Patrick Chong lauded the court ruling, saying it was a ‘relief’ after a nearly 10 year wrangle.
“The Chinese community in South Africa would like to make use of this newfound freedom to create even more jobs for the unemployed,” he said.