Last week, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services continued to hear oral submissions from civil society on the draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.
This Bill will be an essential part of creating awareness about hate speech and hate crimes, effectively legislating against them and allowing for proper monitoring of the problem so that solutions can be implemented. This is one more stride that our country is taking to fight against the legacy of Apartheid.
Heaven knows, this is needed. The most recent hate crime which has garnered public attention involves a white Stellenbosch student urinating on a black student’s belongings. It comes as the latest in a list of shameful episodes of racism in SA. While we might feel angered, disappointed and frustrated, I am pretty sure, none of us are surprised.
The effects of our past still persist. As ordinary citizens, we typically remain spatially, linguistically and culturally separated, neither knowing nor understanding each other. Stereotypes, sometimes positive but often negative, still exist.
Taking a stand against hate is one way we can strengthen ties between South Africans and combat prejudice. In February this year, the Constitutional Court gave a seminal judgement on hate speech, in the case between the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on behalf of the SAJBD and Cosatu’s Bongani Masuku.
Speaking after the finding, one of the Advocates in the case, Advocate Carol Steinberg, made an interesting observation: she said that South African Jews are not perceived to be a vulnerable group; rather, they are seen as being a powerful and economically strong community, and certainly not one in need of protection.