Racism in the Workplace: A View From the Jurisprudence of Courts in the Past Decade

Authors Bongani Khumalo

ISSN: 1996-2185
Affiliations: Lecturer, Department of Mercantile Law, University of South Africa
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 30 Issue 3, 2018, p. 377 – 394


South Africa is an intensely wounded society with more than 343 years of racist colonial and apartheid rule that has negatively affected society and workplace relations. This article highlights and exposes the continued prevalence of racism in the South African workplace. The constitutional and legislative framework, specifically, provisions from the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000, which are pertinent to this issue, are briefly discussed. The article presents a reflective glance at case law from 2007 to 2017 where the courts had to grapple with the issue of workplace racism. A picture emerges from this holistic view of the courts’ approach that there is no place for racists in South African society, and that employers should adopt a firm stance when dealing with cases involving racism. This article argues in favour of adopting an unconventional approach that advocates mechanisms to deal with workplace racism remedially and punitively which is proportional to its social and legal unpleasantness. Such an approach would encourage an open conversation about the issue of race in the workplace and would contribute towards rooting out racism.