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Racism Bill Expected Soon

October 25, 2016

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

A draft bill on the prohibition of racism, xenophobia, hate speech and related intolerance is expected soon. This was confirmed at a justice and constitutional development portfolio committee briefing on Wednesday 11 August.

During the briefing, deputy director general in charge of legislative development, Deon Rudman, told members that the bill should reach Parliament this year. The proposed new legislation has become more urgent in the light of threats of renewed xenophobic violence following the FIFA world cup.

According to Ooshara Sewpaul, a senior official involved in drafting the bill, the legislation will provide police with a definition of xenophobia and other forms of hatred. This will enable them to prosecute the actions concerned. While the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000 already defines and prohibits hate speech and discriminatory behaviour, it does not define xenophobia.

Ms Sewpaul reminded committee members that, in terms of a United Nations convention on the elimination of racism, all countries are obliged to pass laws criminalizing it. The issues entailed are sensitive and complex. With this in mind, the department of justice intends consulting extensively with civil society organisations before finalising the draft bill for cabinet.

“The bill will definitely affect the media,” she said.

Last month, justice and constitutional development department spokesman Tlali Tlali stated that “various provisions in terms of both the constitution and the law of general application … can be used to charge a person who commits hate crimes”. These include sections 9 and 10 of the constitution.

Other provisions helping to guard against hate crimes such as xenophobia are the limitations on freedom of expression set out in section 16(2), as well as sections 10 and 11.

The proposed new legislation seeks to strengthen these provisions and related laws and processes in dealing with crimes of discrimination. It will also address intolerance based on race, gender, ethnic or social origin, colour, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, culture, religion, conscience, belief, language and birth.