Public contributions invited for new bill to prevent hate crimes

OCTOBER 25, 2016

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha has called on South Africans to make their contributions to the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.

Speaking during a media briefing on Monday in Pretoria, Minister Masutha said the bill will assist in dealing with recurring incidences of racial, xenophobic and related intolerances.

“We are clear that this Bill itself may not end racism and other intolerances but will create an instrument that will hold those guilty of committing acts accountable before the law,” Minister Masutha said.

He said a hate crime is committed if a person commits any recognised offence, that is a common law or statutory offence (referred to as the “base crime or offence”) and the commission of that offence is motivated by unlawful bias, prejudice or intolerance.  

The base offences most often committed against victims of hate crimes are offences relating to the physical and emotional integrity of the person, as well as offences against the property of the victims, for instance murder, attempted murder, rape, assault in all its various manifestations, robbery, housebreaking, malicious damage to property, crimen injuria and arson.

“The prejudice, bias or intolerance towards the victim of the hate crime would be because of one or more of the following characteristics, or perceived characteristics, of the victim or the victim’s next of kin: Race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, religion, belief, culture, language, birth, HIV status, nationality, gender identity, intersex, albinism and occupation or trade,” the Minister said.

Minister Masutha said although nationality, gender identity, HIV status, albinism, intersex and occupation or trade are not expressly mentioned in section 9(3) of the country’s constitution, it has been argued that it should be included in the bill because of the hate crimes that have been committed on the basis of these grounds.

The bill has been published for public comment in the Government Gazzette and can be accessed on www.justice.gov.za.

Interested parties and individuals may make inputs until 1 December.

“It is important that the final version of the bill must represent the collective wisdom of the nation and reflect our renewed commitment to uproot these social ills,” he said.

The bill has been drafted after a thorough study of other similar pieces of legislation internationally, such as those in Kenya, Canada and Australia.

“Developing specific legislation on hate crimes will have a number of advantages. It will provide additional tools to investigators and prosecutors to hold the perpetrators of hate crimes accountable and provide a means to monitor efforts and trends in addressing hate crimes,” Minister Masutha said.

He said the bill will build on the existing measures such as the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA), 2000 (Act No 4 of 2000) to combat the social ills of racism, xenophobia and related intolerances.

Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, said the hate crimes bill has been in the pipeline for some time now

The hate speech element was added because of all the problems that seemed to be emerging on social media.

Hate speech and hate speech crimes would be heard in the regional or high courts.

Deputy Minister Jeffery said the penalty for hate speech for a first conviction would be a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years. – SAnews.gov.za