The charge of fraud against Professor Glen Snyman for marking the “South African” option in a job application in 2017 uncovered South Africa’s current problem with racial classification.
South African professor Glen Snyman was summoned to a disciplinary hearing, accused of fraud, for identifying himself as “African” in an application for a job vacancy. Snyman had been defined by the Government as “mestizo” (meaning “mixed racial heritage”).
The Population Registration Law, the cornerstone of the apartheid policy that legalized discrimination introduced in the country in 1950, divided South Africans into four major groups: whites, Africans, blacks and Indians. These terms were chosen to enforce the policy of racial segregation.
The classification was revoked in 1991, when the country started to move towards democratic governance, which occurred in 1994. However, this classification remains an important part of the debate sphere in the country, although it is contested by activists.
The government still uses apartheid terminology to collect data to help correct glaring imbalances in income and economic opportunities, which are a legacy of official racism from the past.
However, many in the country, including Snyman, who founded the organization “People Against Racial Classification” in 2010, believe that the use of categories has no place in a democratic South Africa.
“The removal of the Population Registration Act removes the legal right to classify South Africans by race from the recruitment staff and any government or private system,” wrote Snyman, in a presentation to the country’s Human Rights Commission. .
Although Snyman recognizes that there are still huge imbalances that need to be corrected, the professor suggests that the Government use an income measure to replace racial classification.
“The Government does not need to know the identity of people by groups, it needs to know the people who need services, jobs or whatever is necessary,” he explained. “The Government and the private sector must deliver to all South Africans equally and not discriminate based on their identity.”
As with your apartheid favored whites and separated South Africans by race.
Currently, the official statistical agency of South Africa points out that the country’s population, 57.7 million people, is made up of 80.9% blacks, 8.8% mixed-race, 7.8% white and 2.5% of Indians.
“We consider ourselves black”
During the 1970s, when the fight against apartheid was gaining momentum – inspired by the Black Consciousness Movement, led by the famous activist Steve Biko and the South African Student Organization – many of the country’s marginalized people identified themselves as black in a declaration of solidarity with the struggle to overthrow the apartheid regime.
It is in this sense that Snyman received the support of the largest teachers’ union in the country, the Democratic Teachers Union of South Africa, when he declared himself as “South African”.
“Many of us make a conscious decision not to identify with the racial classification prescribed by the apartheid regime. We consider ourselves black, aAfricans, South Africans“Said Jonavon Rustin, spokesman for the Western Cape Teachers’ Union.
Some, however, make a distinction between a political or cultural identity and the need to deal with the imbalances created by apartheid.
Zodwa Ntuli, comissária do Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment, argues that, although racial classification is an anomaly in a country trying to move away from its race-based past, regulators and the government can only measure the population’s social and economic progress through statistics according to the old categories.
The impact of apartheid discrimination against blacks, Africans and Indians was so widespread that whites continue to dominate the economy in terms of ownership and decision-making power.
However, he points out, “no one in South Africa is allowed to use racial or gender classification to exclude any citizen from enjoying the rights in the country, that would be illegal”.
Kganki Matabane, who heads the Black Business Council, said that although the democratic government is almost 27 years old, it is too early to abandon the old categories.
“We need to ask: are we able to correct these imbalances? If not, as is the case, if we look at the 100 largest companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, 75% or more of CEOs are white men, ”he said. “We can only have one sunset clause [da classificação racial] when the economy reflects the country’s demographics ”.
Saths Cooper, a psychologist, argues that the imposition of a racial classification prevented formation of a truly common identity. “We did not first learn that we are human beings,” he said. “We always put a color, we put external attributes and maybe we use language and belief and that allows more division. This narrative is then perpetuated ”.
“We have not given people enough reason to say that we identify as South Africans,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, Snyman, through Parc, the struggle continues to ban the racial classification of apartheid. “We will take all measures, including legal ones, to rid South Africa of this scourge that once again generated discrimination against those who do not meet the current government’s preferential criteria,” he concluded.