Pretoria, 28 June 2018
Hon. John Jeffery, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
On the 28th of June 2018, SALO in partnership with the Embassies of Norway and the Netherlands hosted a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill at the Sierra Burgers Park hotel in Pretoria. Stakeholders in attendance represented organisations such as Centre for Human Rights UP, Restorative Justice Centre (RJC), the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Access Chapter, Save the Children, the Embassies of Norway, Netherlands and Central African Republic. Opening remarks were made by Ambassador of Norway, Ms Trine Skymoen followed by keynote speaker, Hon. John Jeffery, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development. The event was chaired by Dr Showers Mawowa.
The Ambassador of Norway, Ms Skymoen, spoke of Europe’s experience in witnessing a rise of right-wing and xenophobic rhetoric. The importance of hate crimes and speech bill is evident in the European context. She speaks of the interlinked issues of hate crime and hate speech as a rising global challenge which is somewhat a paradox considering society is becoming more accepting and diverse. Extremist movements strongly oppose diverse and inclusive societies and while being a minority, they cannot be ignored. Intolerance and hatred is not simply cured by economic progress and development. The dialogue nurtured robust and enlightening discussion surrounding the bill, but all were clear that we must stand together in fighting against hate speech and hate crimes.
Deputy Minister, John Jeffrey, gave an overview of the bill and its status, speaking to the importance of prosecuting related crimes but emphasising that the law will not be a solution to ‘unacceptably high’ levels of racism and hateful violence in South Africa. Following this, the session focused on debating the issues surrounding the bill, specifically in relation to hate speech. Right2Know raised concerns about how criminalising hate speech, could possibly criminalise freedom of expression and protest. LGBTQI activists spoke of the influence of Religious organisations who can still preach hate if it does not actively encourage violence. They state that hate crime can be directly linked to hate speech so hateful sermons can encourage violence against minorities. The bill was seen to be dealing with the branches of racism and hate rather than the roots. The RJC emphasised the importance of restorative justice and how it can prevent high levels of recidivism, something which the bill is lacking. This tied into the finals point raised on the importance of social cohesion and how we need to look at this issue from all dimensions and using all the instruments at our disposal.
Participants felt the presentation provided a good overview of the Bill and the following discussions were insightful and informative. Participants also found they were able to ask questions and voice opinions directly to the government. Going forward suggestions were made about engaging in certain topics around solutions such as social cohesion and social contract making in SA.
“What I found most useful is the information that there’s still opportunity for public consultations with prominent figures” – Geoffery Uqwauo, Center for Human Rights
“Open Dialogue with sufficient time for discussion”- Gift Kgomosotho, SAHRC
“They offer dialogue that is informative”- Stanley Thabang Malata, RHS (PM)