Fraud charges against a South African teacher/campaigner against race classification for identifying himself as ‘African’ in a job application has now been dropped.
Glen Snyman is “coloured” – as people of mixed race have been known since the apartheid era was due to appear at a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday but just before attending the session, the matter was withdrawn.
Glen Snyman, a teacher at the Grootkraal Primary School in Oudtshoorn is the founder of campaign group ‘People Against Race Classification’ – a group of activists opposed to the use of race categories such as “black”, “coloured”, “Indian” and “white” on official documentation, including job-application forms.
Provincial MEC for Education, Debbie Schäfer said she only learned on Wednesday that the teacher was charged with fraud.
Schäfer said she was shocked to discover that her department was charging someone because of how they choose to classify themselves.
“One of the many evils of apartheid was the classification of people by their so-called race. This was what many people have fought to rid our country of. So, I am understandably shocked to discover that my department is apparently charging someone because of how they choose to classify themselves. If this is in fact the case, it is anathema to me.
And we will not tolerate victimisation of people who do not conform to an artificial and arbitrary classification of who they are deemed to be,” Schäfer said in a statement.
“I have asked for all the information regarding this case as a matter of urgency because on the face of it, it does not appear to be in line with what this administration stands for.”
Categorizations are used to monitor and give opportunities to those who faced discrimination under apartheid but since 2010, Snyman has been campaigning against the use of the race categories, saying that he regards himself “first and foremost” as a South African.
Snyman was accused of trying to benefit from the system unfairly as racial classifications still matter in South Africa 26 years after the end of white-minority rule.
Snyman’s case raised questions about how far people are allowed to choose their identity, how they self-identify, and what room there is – or isn’t – in a country where race has been used as a weapon of oppression for centuries.