The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has sent its submission on the ‘Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill’ to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for consideration.
The much awaited Bill aims to give effect to South Africa’s obligations, in terms of both our Constitutional and international human rights instruments, concerning racism and discrimination; to provide for the offence of hate crimes and hate speech; as well as the prosecution and prevention of these crimes.
The SAJBD, as the umbrella representative body and human rights voice of the South African Jewish community, has been involved in hate crimes awareness, education and legislation advocacy for nearly a decade. Through our role as a founding and current Steering Committee member of the Hate Crimes Working Group, as well as our participation in other important civil society initiatives, the SAJBD continues to be deeply committed to ensuring that issues relating to hate crimes and hate speech are adequately addressed in our country.
The SAJBD’s submission on the Bill focused on a significant concern of the local Jewish community, that of antisemitism, and outlined the need for hate crimes legislation in our country as well as effective monitoring and data collection of cases of hate. On the issue of hate speech, it was felt that the relevant sections of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (No. 4, 2000, hereafter ‘Equality Act’) were sufficiently far-reaching for purposes of addressing cases of hate speech. Rather than having two very similar laws on the statute books, it was therefore strongly recommended that the anti-hate speech sections of the Hate Crimes Bill be removed and that instead the relevant sections of the Equality Act be revisited with a view to their possible amendment. This might entail making the propagation of hate speech on the basis of race, ethnicity and other prohibited grounds an offence not only when it is directed against an individual, but against the particular group which is being thus maligned.
The SAJBD’s submission stresses that the Act must be so framed as to make its practical implementation possible, and to this end recommendsbolstering and expanding the reach and effectiveness of current legislation and mechanisms dealing with incidents of hate, such as the SA Human Rights Commission and Equality Courts. The issue of restorative justice, to both educate against and prevent hate speech and hate crimes as well as a method of dealing with perpetrators after an incident has taken place, was also emphasized.
“History has shown us where hate leads”, says the SAJBD’s representative on the Hate Crimes Working Group Alana Baranov. “Genocide and crimes against humanity do not begin with action but with words and incidences of discrimination. South Africans need to work together to ensure that our country is one in which human rights, freedom and equality are afforded to all who live in it”.
We look forward to working with the Department of Justice on the draft Bill going forward as well as any on other initiatives aimed at preventing and combating hate in our society.