COSATU welcomes the National Assembly’s passage of the Prevention of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the National Assembly’s passage of the Prevention of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.

South Africa is still grappling with the legacies of apartheid and colonialism.  Many South Africans are still bearing the pains and effects of the brutality meted out to them and their families by decades of enforced racism and hate crimes.  We have witnessed all too often serious incidents of hate speech and hate crimes occuring in South Africa.  A few years ago a resident of KwaZulu-Natal was sentenced to prison for spewing racial hate speech on Facebook, a community in Centurion saw mobilisation against the establishment of a Mosque, white students have been found guilty at the University of the Free State for urinating in the food of African cleaning staff etc. 

The experience of Rwanda during the 1994 genocide is testimony that hate crimes and hate speech cannot be taken lightly.  Whilst hate speech at times may be dismissed as the utterances of idiots best ignored, they can as Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Germany and countless other countries have shown lead to hate crimes, violence, murder and genocide. 

It is critical that the correct balance is found.  The Constitution enshrines the right to freedom of speech, thought and political association.  It also places an obligation upon the state to protect ordinary persons from unfair discrimination.  All rights are accompanied by responsibilities.  Whilst it is critical to protect ordinary citizens and workers from hate speech, it is also important to avoid allowing inept politicians cover to hide their delinquencies behind.

The Bill provides this balance.  It recognises that South Africa is a constitutional democracy that can be very robust at times, and necessarily so.  COSATU welcomes provisions in the Bill that provide space for robust engagements at the workplace between the employer and workers and their unions within the parameters of the law.  It also recognises the need to provide protections for ordinary citizens from hate crimes and hate speech.   

COSATU urges the National Council of Provinces to pass this progressive Bill.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks(Parliamentary Coordinator)
Cell: 082 785 0687