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n Journal for Juridical Science - Actual past discrimination or group membership as a requirement to benefit from affirmative action : a comparison between South African and American case law

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Abstract

<b>Feitelike vorige diskriminasie of groeplidmaatskap as 'n vereiste vir regstellende aksie : 'n vergelyking van hofsake van Suid-Afrika en die Verenigde State van Amerika</b> <br>Hierdie nota ontleed die Suid-Afrikaanse en Amerikaanse posisies met betrekking tot die kwessie of werklike vorige benadeling of lidmaatskap van 'n aangewese groep getoon moet word ten einde begunstig te word onder regstellende aksie. Daar word gefokus op die reg in die werkplek. Kategorisering van begunstigdes van regstellende aksie en kritiek hierop word aangespreek. Die gevolge van onder- en oorinsluiting word kortliks bespreek. Dit word gedoen teen die agtergrond van die verskillende begrippe van gelykheid. Dit blyk dat die Amerikaanse howe (teen die agtergrond van gelyke geleenthede) aanvanklik nie 'n vermoede van benadeling ten gunste van swart mense en vroue wou toepas nie, nieteenstaande breë aanvaarding dat hulle wel deur diskriminasie benadeel is. Bewese werklike vorige benadeling was vereis tot in die laat 1980s voordat regspraak aangedui het dat dit nie langer nodig was nie. Die pendulum het tans egter teruggeswaai en sterk bewyse moet voorgelê word dat diskriminasie wel plaasgevind het en dat dit 'n impak op die groep as 'n geheel gehad het. In Suid-Afrika waar regstellende aksie eers vanaf 1999 geïmplementeer is (in teenstelling met Amerika se 40 jaar van ervaring), het die howe dit gou duidelik gemaak dat lidmaatskap van 'n aangewese groep - en nie werklike benadeling nie - voldoende is. Hierdie interpretasie volg die begrip van substantiewe gelykheid, soos onderskryf deur die Grondwet en die Wet op Gelyke Indiensneming. Hopelik sal dié benadering die Suid-Afrikaanse geskiedenis van sistemiese en deurlopende diskriminasie suksesvol aanspreek. Die gebruik van kategorieë van begunstigdes sal sonder twyfel ook lei tot oor-insluiting, maar dit moet in gedagte gehou word dat die posisie in SA anders is as dié van Amerika, in dié sin dat regstellende aksie vir 'n meerderheid toegepas word.

This note analyses the South African and US positions with regard to the issue of whether actual past discrimination is required as a prerequisite to benefit from affirmative action or whether membership of a designated group will suffice. The focus is on employment law. Categorisation of affirmative action beneficiaries and criticism of the same are covered. The consequences of over- and under-inclusiveness will briefly be addressed. This is done against the background of the various notions of equality. It seems that the US courts (following the notion of equality of opportunity) had initially been unwilling to accord Blacks and women the benefit of a conclusive presumption of victimization, notwithstanding wide acceptance of the fact that discrimination had adversely affected them. A showing of actual past discrimination was required until the late 1980s when case law made it clear that this was not necessary any longer. At present, however, the pendulum has moved back again and a strong evidentiary basis must be made out that discrimination had in fact taken place and that it had an impact on the group as a whole. In SA where affirmative action has been implemented only since 1999 (in contrast to the 40 years of experience of the US), the courts quickly made it clear that membership of a designated group and not actual disadvantage is what is required. This interpretation is in line with the notion of substantive equality, as embraced by the Constitution and the EEA. Hopefully, this approach will successfully address SA's history of systemic and pervasive discrimination. Although the use of categories of beneficiaries will no doubt also lead to over-inclusion, it should be kept in mind that the situation in SA is different to that of the US, in that a majority must be affirmed.

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/content/juridic/29/3/EJC55540
2004-01-01
2016-12-08
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