06 December 2023
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes Parliament’s passing the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.
South Africa is still grappling with the legacies of apartheid and colonialism. Many South Africans bear the pains of brutality inflected on them and their families by decades of enforced racism and hate crimes. We witness 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 indeed South Africa and countless other countries have shown lead to hate crimes, violence, murder and genocide.
It is critical the appropriate 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 the law must protect ordinary citizens and workers from hate speech, it is also important to avoid allowing inept politicians cover to hide their ineptness and sometimes criminal behaviour behind.
The Bill provides the right balance. It recognises that South Africa is a constitutional democracy that can be very noisy at times, and necessarily so. We welcome the Bill’s providing space for robust engagements in society, including at the workplace between the employer and workers and their unions, within legal parameters. It affirms the need to provides protections for ordinary citizens from hate crimes and hate speech.
COSATU urges the President, Cyril Ramaphosa to assent to this progressive and long overdue Bill.
Issued by COSATU
For further information please contact:
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
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