THE South African government has published the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill in the Government Gazette, seeking public consultation on the proposed legislation, following approval of the Bill by Cabinet on Wednesday(tomorrow).
“Democracy does not thrive in an environment that is fraught with divisions, hatred and violence, hence social cohesion is important for the development the country and the sustenance of stability,” Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha told journalists at a media briefing in Pretoria.
“As the media, you are often at the pulse of developments in the country and have reported extensively on racial and xenophobic incidences including the so-called ‘corrective rape’ of the LGBTI [lesbian…] persons and violent attacks on sex workers.”
A “hate crime” is committed if a person commits any recognised offence, that is a common law or statutory offence (also referred to as the base crime or offence) and the commission of that crime is motivated by unlawful bias, prejudice or intolerance.
“The prejudice, bias or tolerance towards the victims of hate crimes would be because of one or more of the following characteristics, or perceived characteristics, of the victim or the victim’s next of kin: race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, religion, belief, culture, language, birth, HIV status, nationality, gender identity, intersex, albinism and occupation or trade,” said Masutha.
“Although nationality, gender identity, HIV status, albinism, intersex and occupation or trade are not expressly mentioned in Section 9 (3) of our Constitution, it has been argued that they should be included in the Bill because of the hate crimes that have been committed on the basis of these grounds.”
Masutha said the Bill has been drafted after a thorough study of other similar pieces of legislation internationally, such as those in Kenya, Canada and Australia.
The draft legislation may now be accessed on the department’s website www.justice.gov.za and interested parties and individuals may make input until the due date of December 1.
Masutha appealed to the South African community to contribute to the formulation of the new law.
“We should all take the opportunity at hand to contribute towards ensuring that once sanctioned into law, the Bill will assist all of us to deal with recurring incidences of racism, xenophobic and related intolerance,” said Masutha.
“We are clear that this Bill of itself may not end racism and other intolerances but will create an instrument that will hold those guilty of committing the acts accountable before the law.”
Masutha’s deputy, John Jeffery said the Bill was initially developed targeting hate crimes only but the hate speech element had to be incorporated in light of the rampant incidents recently witnessed across South Africa, particularly prejudices expressed on social media. – ANA