Tourism Covid-19 racially decided fund declared unlawful

© Provided by The South African

The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein ruled that the Department of Tourism’s implementation of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) as a criteria for its Covid-19 aid fund was unlawful on Wednesday.

Trade union, Solidarity and civil rights organisation, AfriForum had opposed the BEE criteria requirement in their court application against the government department.  Both organisations welcomed the court victory in a joint statement issued on Wednesday.

“We are delighted with the verdict. It is a victory for everyone in the tourism sector who has lost their revenue and businesses as a result of the government’s implementations of the Disaster Management Act, but also whom the government has rejected based on the colour of their skin,” the organisations said. “Solidarity and AfriForum were persistent, saying that the virus does not choose its victims based on the colour of their skin and that the government has no right to choose whom they will help based on this criteria. We simply could not allow this gross exploitation of people in need,” Anton van der Bijl, head of legal matters at Solidarity said. 

Judge Clive Plasket ruled that the Minister of Tourism  had committed an error of law and that she was not legally obliged, as she had argued, to allocate funds based on BEE requirements. Plasket’s ruling replaces the previous ruling, delivered on 6 April in favour of the Department. AfriForum and Solidarity appealed against the ruling and the case was heard electronically on 25 August.

“The court’s ruling makes it clear that the minister made a mistake in her interpretation of the Act. It could also be that the minister’s legal advisers are incompetent or that she knew exactly what she did and still chose to discriminate against people based on the colour of their skin, in contradiction to the relevant legislation,” Jacques Broodryk, Campaign Manager at AfriForum said.

“It is time for government officials to realise that they simply cannot just make and break as they please, and that the taxpayer’s money cannot be spent carelessly, or be used to finance the ANC’s ideology. Ministers and their respective departments are also subject to the laws of this country and will be held accountable if they do not comply. We will continue to act as a watchdog and will not hesitate to address these injustices,” Van der Bijl added.

The South African tourism sector has suffered severely under  the government’s draconic lockdown measures, which led to the closure of hundreds of restaurants and hotels and thousands of job losses.

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