PEN SA Submission on the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill

30 Jan 2017
PEN SA Submission on the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill

The South African Department of Justice and Constitutional Development published the draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill in October 2016. PEN South Africa, under the guidance of Vice-President Raymond Louw and with carefully debated contributions from members of the PEN South Africa Board, has been hard at work formulating a considered and nuanced response to this proposed legislation. As you will see in the submission, we are cognisant of and concerned with the social problems that this Bill seeks to address, however, we are not convinced that the deep divisions in our society will be redressed by this legislation. We are deeply concerned by the implications for free speech and artistic expression.

PEN SA submitted its comments to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in time for the 31 January 2016 deadline as set by the department.

You can read our comments on the bill here.

Further Reading

Leading up to the 31 January deadline, PEN South Africa has highlighted a number of articles about the bill.

PEN SA Vice-President Raymond Louw shared his concern about the draft Bill in an article for Business Day: “The bill proposes sweeping inroads on freedom of expression and freedom of the media and, if passed, will be seen as the ANC sneaking in a highly repressive law, which will take on the mantle of the criminal defamation law.”

PEN SA member Jacques Rousseau wrote an article titled “Hate Speech and Legal Overreach in South Africa“. Other articles on the Bill include Carl Collison’s “Hate Speech is not a Hate Crime” for the Mail & Guardian and Greg Nicolson’s analysis of the Bill for the Daily Maverick.

In November, Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, gave a speech titled “The question of hate speech” at the 30th anniversary of the Rafto Forum: “I want to argue that it is only by allowing free speech – that is allowing all forms of speech, including those espousing hateful views – that we can ultimately protect minority and oppressed groups. That the answer to hateful speech is not more bans or ever widening laws or definitions of hate, but finding mechanisms that better allow the speech of all groups to flow.”

The question remains: How will we, as a society, address the issue of speech and writing that causes hurt and harm? We are writers. We can imagine things in other ways, we can write into being different kinds of discourse – conversations that allow for differences of opinion, a range of stories, a depth of narrative that neither hurts nor silences. That is a vital discursive space. PEN South Africa calls on PEN members to make contributions to this debate. We look forward to hearing from you and hope to publish a range of writing about this at the end of February.

You can make your submission to Myolisi Sikupela, PEN SA Centre Co-ordinator at