South Africa introduces hate speech bill to Parliament


President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.

Hate Speech

South Africa’s Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DJCD) on Wednesday introduced a hate speech bill to Parliament in a bid to accelerate the process of criminalizing both hate crime and hate speech.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services heard that the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crime and Hate Speech Bill seeks to address the increasing number of incidents motivated by prejudice, in the forms of hate crime and hate speech, and to assist people who are victims of such crimes, Committee Chairperson Mathole Motshekga said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.

Motshekga said the Bill also puts in place measures to prevent and combat these offences.

The committee appreciates the urgency of the matter, nonetheless MPs would first like to consider the matter for greater clarity, before it decides on the way forward, Motshekga said.

The Bill makes it a hate crime if a person commits any recognized offence under the law, referred to as the “base crime or offence,” if the commission of that offence is motivated by prejudice or intolerance on the basis of one or more characteristics or perceived characteristics of the victim, as listed in the Bill.

Under the Bill, the offence of hate speech is created and makes provision for any person who intentionally publishes, propagates or advocates anything or communicates to one or more persons in a manner that could be reasonably construed to demonstrate a clear intention to be harmful, or to incite or to promote or propagate hatred based on several categories.

These include, among others, age, albinism, birth, color, culture, disability, ethnic or social origin, gender, HIV status, language, nationality and sex.

The Bill also allows for exclusions, such as freedom of the press and other media, freedom to receive or impart information or ideas, freedom of artistic creativity, academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

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Motshekga said that as introduced by the DJCD, should a person be convicted of hate crimes, the Bill provides for the courts to impose sentencing, including imprisonment, periodical imprisonment, a fine and correctional supervision, depending on the base crime.

In terms of hate speech, the Bill makes provision for imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years in the case of a first conviction, or a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years in the case of a subsequent conviction, Motshekga said.

He said the Bill does not provide for alternatives such as restorative justice.

“South Africans will be pleased with the Bill, particularly in light of the increasing intolerance South Africa has witnessed recently,” said Motshekga.

The South African cabinet approved the Bill in March following the resurgence of racism in the country.

The latest case involves former real estate agent Vicki Momberg who was sentenced to an effective two years in prison by the Randburg Magistrate’s Court in Johannesburg in March this year for her racist tirade in 2016.

In a video clip that went viral, Momberg could be heard complaining about the “calibre of blacks” after an alleged smash-and-grab incident in Johannesburg.