The SCA upheld an appeal against a decision of the Labour Appeal Court (LAC) that overturned a decision of the Labour Court.
The Labour Court held that Barnard had been unfairly discriminated against when she was not appointed to the promotion position of superintendent within a specialised unit of the SAPS, despite being the best candidate for the post.
The Solidarity trade union helped Barnard with her legal battle.
Barnard had twice applied unsuccessfully for promotion to the position of superintendent within the then National Evaluation Services (NES), which dealt with complaints by the public and by public officials concerning the broad spectrum of police services.
Despite recommendations by an interviewing panel and her divisional commissioner, the national commissioner did not appoint her to the position on the basis that racial representivity at the level of superintendent would be negatively affected.
On Thursday, the SCA said it noted that the appeal turned on its own facts and that it would be presumptuous to assert and foolish to assume that the decision in this case would be an all-embracing guide to deciding future cases.
However, the court held that Barnard had clearly been discriminated against on the basis of race.
Referring to the negative impact of the commissioner’s decision on Barnard and the SAPS as a whole, the SCA said a double rejection on dubious grounds of a loyal and dedicated servant of the SAPS, such as Barnard, could not be overlooked.
“If we are to build a cohesive society with cohesive components within the state structure, we have to be situation sensitive,” the SCA said.
The judgment further stated that to redress past imbalances with affirmative action measures, race had to be taken into account.
However, it should do so fairly and without losing focus that the ultimate objective was to ensure a fully inclusive society.
“One [society] compliant with all facets of our constitutional project,” it stated.