The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today made a ruling that AfriForum’s urgent application for review against the Department of Tourism’s use of race as a benchmark for the awarding of COVID-19 relief to tourism enterprises, which would have been brought today, will now be heard on 28 April. The ruling further determines that the Department undertakes that no decisions regarding the awarding of relief would be made before the court had ruled thereon.
This order of the court is based on an agreement that was reached late yesterday afternoon between AfriForum and the Department. These parties also agreed that AfriForum’s application on 28 April would be heard together with a similar application made by Solidarity.
Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, has welcomed the Department’s undertaking to halt any decisions about the racially driven COVID-19 relief programme pending a court ruling. According to Kriel it is also a positive development that AfriForum and Solidarity’s applications will now be heard together.
“It is important that the court sees that both employees and employers will be negatively affected by the racial benchmarks in COVID-19 relief. AfriForum and Solidarity’s applications will ensure that both of these perspectives are placed before the court.”
This follows after AfriForum on 7 April 2020 placed Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the Minister of Tourism, as well as the Department on terms regarding BEE and other requirements. According to Kriel neither the Minister nor the Department reacted to AfriForum’s letter and as such AfriForum now has no other choice but to approach the courts.
In the court papers, AfriForum requests that the application be handled on an urgent basis seeing as the Department will now already decide on a weekly basis which tourism enterprises will be helped. This fund currently contains R200 million. AfriForum also included various case studies with the court papers of business enterprises that are being disadvantaged by these arbitrary requirements.
According to Kriel, it is disgraceful that the government has decided to misuse assistance to struggling enterprises to promote a race-based agenda, even in a time where everyone in the country needs to stand together against the mutual enemy – COVID-19. Kriel pointed to the fact that the Department’s racial requirements amount to unfair discrimination and is therefore unconstitutional.
“The expressed aim of the Department’s fund is to offer assistance to tourism enterprises that are being adversely affected by COVID-19. Seeing as everyone, regardless of their race, is being adversely affected by COVID-19, the Department cannot use Section 9(2) of the Constitution, which justifies correction of discrimination from the past, as justification for discriminating assistance against the consequences of COVID-19.”
AfriForum encourages all tourism enterprises to still apply for relief at www.tourism.gov.za/Pages/COVID19TOURISMRELIEFFUND.aspx. You can SMS the name of your enterprise to 45113 (R1) to provide AfriForum with your enterprise’s details so that we can implement legal action on your behalf should your application be rejected based on BEE requirements. You can also send an email with your enterprise’s details to email@example.com.