COSATU welcomes President Ramaphosa’s assenting to the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assenting to 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 Act provides the right balance and a sober framework.  It recognises South Africa is a constitutional democracy that can be very noisy, and necessarily so.  It allows space for robust engagements within fair legal parameters.  It affirms the need to protect ordinary citizens from hate crimes and hate speech.  It is a progressive response by the African National Congress led government to address our still painful wounds.

COSATU urges government to move with speed to ensure the South African Police Service, Judiciary and other relevant organs are fully capacitated to implement this progressive and long overdue Act.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:

Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator 
Cell: 082 785 0687