Specific law needed to criminalise racism and promotion of apartheid - Office of ANC Chief Whip

In context of our painful past, racial bigotry and apartheid must be considered serious human rights violations punishable by imprisonmnent


5 January 2016

The Office of the ANC Chief Whip in Parliament firmly believes that time has come for a specific legislation to be created by Parliament to criminalize any act that perpetuates racism or glorifies apartheid. More than 21 years since the advent of our democratic dispensation founded on the noble principles of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing in the interest of a united, non racial, non sexist and prosperous South Africa, there are still elements who are resisting efforts for racial unity and are working tirelessly to widen the racial rifts and tensions created by apartheid oppression.

Despite the great efforts by the Black majority to embrace reconciliation and forgiveness rather than retribution for the untold atrocities and injustices suffered under apartheid and colonialism, there are some within the white community whose only response has been to engage in acts of persecutions and torments driven by racial bigotry. Even more disturbing is the increasing trivialization of racism, where accusations of 'reverse racism' are often thrown around without regard to the historical context. Since 1652, with the arrival white settlers, black people have suffered dispossession, economic deprivation and racial oppression, and thus continued racism is offensive and intolerable.

Clearly, there are some within the white community who are still struggling to come to terms with our democratic order which is anchored on human rights values that extends fundamental rights to all regardless of race, colour, creed or sex. Various researches and surveys continue to demonstrate that racial unity remains illusive and that the majority of Black people continue to experience racism in many spheres of their lives. Trust amongst races remains unsatisfactory and discrimination continues to undermine our efforts towards nation building and social cohesion.

The recent disturbing incidences of racism and glorification of apartheid, and the indifference with which they were dealt with, proffer valuable lessons to our young democracy regarding how not to deal with such gravely serious infringements that dehumanizes the great majority of our people and robs them of their dignity. Such gross violations cannot be left merely to the internal subjective processes of a political party or a company. Today, as the nation is justifiably seething with anger and disappointment at yet another blatant acts or racial bigotry, we know too well that there is little that can be done in terms of our legislative provisions to sufficiently punish the perpetrators and to sternly discourage recurrence of such repulsive conducts.

For her overt racism and public promotion of apartheid, DA's Dianne Kohler-Barnard was recently given a Christmas present to return to her post in Parliament and continue fulfilling her duties as a Member of Parliament. Her fellow racist and apartheid apologist, journalist Paul Kirk, continues with his life as usual despite the offensive racist Facebook post.

It goes without saying that the latest race storm involving yet another DA member Penny Sparrow and Standard Bank's Chris Hart will be whitewashed. It is particularly laughable and a disgusting joke that the DA (which rewarded Kohler-Barnard for her racism) and its member, Herman Mashaba, who always accuse Black people of racism for favoring Black economic empowerment policies, would pull a stunt of opening a case against Sparrow.

In the context of our painful past, racial bigotry and apartheid must be considered serious human rights violations that must be punishable by imprisonmnent. Elsewhere glorification of Nazism and denial of Holocaust is a crime and perpetrators are tried and sentenced to a prison term. Apartheid was declared by the United Nations a crime against humanity. It caused untold suffering and injustice to millions of Black people, including murder, torture, destruction of families, harrassment and kidnappings. Any person who glorifies such a system essentially promotes and celebrates acts of criminality committed against Black people. Such a person represents a serious danger to our society and our national reconciliation efforts and must dealt with through our criminal justice system.

The current legislative provisions are not sufficient to punish and dissuade racists. As the Majority Party in Parliament, we will soon investigate creating a specific law or amending the existing legislation to ensure that acts of racism and promotion of apartheid are criminalized and punishable by imprisonmnent. We will persuade and work with relevant stakeholders to ensure that Parliament enacts such law.

We can no longer as a nation tolerate such dehumanizing violations, where Black majority are treated as subhumans and are referred to as monkey, baboons and other derogatory racist epithets in the land of their birth.

Statement issued by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, 5 January 2016