Hate speech bill opens door for profound misuse – Solidarity

Connie Mulder says bill is formulated too broadly, will lead to arbitrary application

Hate speech bill opens door for profound misuse

31 May 2018

Trade union Solidarity today strongly condemned the hate speech bill. Connie Mulder, Head of the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI), explained that the potential positive impact of this bill is doubtful and that its application could lead to a suppression of constitutional rights and the ability of citizens to hold their politicians accountable for misconduct.

The bill is simply formulated too broadly, and will necessarily lead to arbitrary and unlawful application. It is conceivable that this bill, should it be accepted, could impose imprisonment on any individual simply because the individual deviated from the ideology of the ruling party,” said Mulder.

The trade union Solidarity believes that a public forum must be created where all ideas, even those that people think may be despicable, can be debated. “The only way we as South Africans will be able to cast bad ideas out of society is by fighting them with good ideas. This requires dialogue, debate and confidence to truly say what we think. By stigmatising some statements as unlawful, we ensure that those issues remain in the shadows where we are unable to address them,” said Mulder.

According to Mulder, government’s recent actions are increasingly aimed at restricting thoughts. “It is very disturbing. For South Africa to work, our society must be allowed to be freer in their thoughts and speech, rather than more restricted,” Mulder said.

The criminalisation of speech has a terrible history that almost always holds an existential threat for a country’s democracy. It was wrong with the Germans in 1940, the Soviet Union under Stalin, the Apartheid government of the previous dispensation and it remains wrong until today. The government must never be allowed to force her social and ideological values onto the citizenry. The rightful institutions for the promotion of values will always be communities, churches and social institutions. The government should rather focus on the country instead of on thoughts,” Mulder concluded.

Issued by Francois Redelinghuys, Spokesperson, Solidarity, 31 May 2018