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Phiyega: Barnard case a triumph for affirmative action

The Constitutional Court found police did not act unfairly by refusing to promote Renate Barnard.

Riah Phiyega. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - National Police commissioner Riah Phiyega has described the South African Police Services (SAPS) victory in the employment equity case against Renate Barnard as an important legal test for government's affirmative action policy.

The Constitutional Court found that the police did not act unfairly by refusing to promote Barnard and instead shifting her to another section.

It's been a nine-year legal battle for Barnard who was overlooked twice for a promotion because of her race.

Phiyega says this has cemented affirmative action in the country's future and the police will continue the necessary steps to make the service more representative.

"We realise the significance of the Barnard case. We were the test case to fight for the space to continue with affirmative action in this country. This is a very significant finding that affirmative action is legal and that it is necessary."

Last month, Barnard said she was disappointed by the judgment.

The court sided with the SAPS, overturning earlier judgments in favour of Barnard.

In November last year, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned an earlier court ruling that the police were correct in not promoting Barnard because she is white.

Barnard's troubles began in 2006 when she was twice overlooked for a promotion because of her race, despite being the lead candidate.