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Draft Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill Under Construction

February 17, 2017

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

A revised draft of the Draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill will be drawn up and placed before cabinet for approval.

The deputy minister of justice and constitutional development, John Jeffery, confirmed this during a Freedom of Religion South Africa Special Update Meeting in Cape Town.

The revised draft will take submissions received during the recent public consultations on the draft bill into account.

The deputy minister added that changes would be introduced to the draft bill if necessary.

“Nothing is cast in stone at this stage and if we need to narrow the definition of hate speech in the Bill, we will do so.”

The draft bill was released for comment at the end of October 2016.

It was approved by cabinet on 19 October 2016.

According to the cabinet statement, the proposed legislation seeks to “create the offences of hate crimes and hate speech and to put in place measures to prevent and combat these offences”.

Cabinet also holds the view that the draft bill will address the increasing number of racial incidents and other types of criminal conduct in the form of hate crimes and hate speech which have occurred in recent times.

The draft bill aims to:

• Give effect to the Republic’s obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights instruments concerning racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in accordance with international law obligations;
• Provide for the offence of hate crimes and the offence of hate speech and the prosecution of persons who commit those crimes;
• Provide for appropriate sentences that may be imposed on persons who commit hate crime and hate speech offences;
• Provide for the prevention of hate crimes and hate speech;
• Provide for the reporting on the implementation, application and administration of this Act;
• Amend certain Acts of Parliament consequentially; and
• Provide for matters connected therewith.

Meanwhile, during a roundtable discussion on the draft bill in Cape Town, the deputy minister declared that government did not expect the proposed legislation to eliminate racism.

Addressing structural inequalities that underpin racism was needed to achieve this objective.

He added that the draft bill should not be seen in isolation.

“It has to supplement other government measures and initiatives, such as social cohesion and nation-building programs, poverty alleviation and so forth”, he said.

In a separate matter, the justice and constitutional development department recently introduced the members of the Information Regulator.

The five members were appointed with effect from 1 December 2016 and will serve for a period of five years.