Chinese South Africans qualify for BEE
18 June 2008
In a landmark decision, the Pretoria High Court has ruled that South Africans of Chinese descent qualify for the full benefits of the country's employment equity and black economic empowerment (BEE) laws.
The ruling comes after the Chinese Association of South Africa (Casa) took to the courts eight years ago to establish why Chinese South Africans, who were classified as "coloured" during the apartheid era, did not qualify under these laws.
Wednesday's ruling means that the Chinese community will be able to take advantage of black empowerment posts and business deals.
Making the ruling, Judge Cynthia Pretorius granted an order in terms of which Chinese South Africans are to be included in the definition of "black people" - which already covers Africans, "Coloureds" and Indians - contained in the two laws.
"It is agreed that the Chinese people fall within the ambit of black people in both the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act of 2003 and the Employment Equity Act," Pretorius told the court.
The departments of Labour, Trade and Industry, and Justice and Constitutional Development initially filed a notice to oppose Casa's application. However, they conceded to the merits of the case in April this year.
Confusion over status
Briefing reporters after the judgment, Casa's lawyer, George van Niekerk, said justice had now been served for Chinese South Africans, who are one of the country's most politically marginalised communities.
He said that although the two Acts did not specifically exclude Chinese South Africans, the fact that they were not mentioned by name led to a lot of confusion in the marketplace.
"While one commercial bank would, given the historical considerations, classify Chinese South Africans as 'black' for the purposes of the Employment Equity Act and the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, another commercial bank declined to do so," Van Niekerk said.
"The net result was that Chinese South Africans were never sure of their status."