PEN SA joins multi-stakeholder dialogue on the prevention of hate speech
30 Jan 2019
On 20 November 2018 PEN SA attended a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the Prevention and Eradication of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill convened by the Southern Africa Liaison Office’s (SALO).
Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Hon John Jeffery, was among the panellists who addressed participants. Minister Jeffery asserted that targeted violence directed at persons on the basis of their sexual orientation, race and other constitutionally-protected grounds motivated for the criminalization of hate speech and crimes. This would serve to supplement existing civil remedies provided by such legislation as the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. “Hate crimes is something government has been lobbied about for some time.” Minster Jeffery said. “It is not so much creating a new crime, but making existing crimes more serious. [The] Hate speech [component] is creating a new crime, but already there’s a common law crime so we feel that Parliament should pass a law on hate speech].”
Other dialogue panellists were supportive of this view. Founder of the organisation Free Gender, Funeka Soldaat, said criminalizing hate speech and crimes would “ …make it possible for the court(s) to acknowledge that most…lesbians are killed because of their sexual orientation. Every year we know that we have to go to court for our members being raped and beaten up.” Prof Tim Murithi of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) expressed the hope that the legislation would be passed before South Africa’s national elections, which are to be held in 2019. Prof Murithi cautioned that the legislation “…will not alter the mindsets of the racists within our society [hence] we need a much more introspective work [on] justice and reconciliation [as undertaken by] IJR and the Anti-Racism Network of South Africa.”
Some dialogue participants expressed concern about the effect of this bill on freedom of speech and expression. It was noted that the Bill of Rights already incorporates four grounds on which restrictions on freedom of speech are justifiable and that criminalising speech was therefore overreach.
Update: on 29 January, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development convened a multi-stakeholder consultation on the Prevention and Eradication of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.