Five senior coloured officials are taking the department of correctional services (DCS) to court, claiming they have been denied promotions because of their race, the Cape Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Their attorney, Michael Bagraim, said the DCS used national demographics — mooted by government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi when he was director-general of the labour department — in the Western Cape where coloured people are in the majority to ensure that only black staff were being promoted.

“Effectively what has happened is that the DCS wants to put a national demographic profile on the Western Cape,” Bagraim said.

“They say there are too many coloureds working for the department in the Western Cape.”

He said the policy by DCS, which had been informally practised, became official two months ago when a memo was sent out to all department heads in the Western Cape that national demographics would be used in appointing all staff.

“What it means in practice is that the DCS will have to bring people down here to fill posts,” said Bagraim.

Department spokesperson Sibongile Khumalo told the newspaper that the department used “national targets”.

“Our policies are based on the principles and guidelines of the department of labour, and this is part of a five-year plan which will enable us to reach our employment equity targets,” he said.

The senior officials want to interdict the department from applying this policy, saying it goes against the labour laws.

Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s spokesperson, Sonwabo Mbananga, would not comment on the issue as it was a matter for the national commissioner, the newspaper reported.

Manyi was widely criticised earlier this year when, as the director general of the labour department, he suggested in a television news programme that there were too many coloureds in the Western Cape. — Sapa