The ANC’s proposed Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill (the Bill) will not only violate freedom of speech in a constitutional manner, but will also destroy democracy, togetherness, the free flow of ideas and media freedom.
Moreover, the Bill will also have a negative effect on the fight against racism and will lead to arbitrary prosecution. These are but a few of the conclusions that AfriForum submitted today in respect of this Bill as part of its submission to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. The matter was discussed at a blitz conference at the head office of the civil rights organisation in Centurion today. AfriForum’s legal opinion was composed by the media law expert Adv. Mark Oppenheimer in cooperation with Advs. Martin Brassey (SC) and Gretha Engelbrecht.
AfriForum also launched a campaign today to allow the public the opportunity to add their voices to those who are against the Bill.
Ernst Roets, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, says that hate speech and racism are indeed problems in South Africa.
“With this Bill the ANC attempts to apply micromanagement to society in a manner that will be promoting racism and hate rather than fighting it.”
“The predominant issue is the way that it is defined,” Oppenheimer says. “The Constitution makes it clear which speech constitutes hate speech – advocacy of hatred based on race, gender, ethnicity of religion – and which constitutes incitement to cause harm. What the Bill does, is that it expands beyond these to include speech that ridicules or insults, and it has draconian criminal penalties.”
Jeremy Nell, the cartoonist better known as Jerm, presented a submission about the Bill in cooperation with AfriForum.
“I would have to change careers to something safer. But seriously, this is an absurd proposal to silence freedom of speech. An Act such as this one will erode the principles of democracy,” he says.
The objections that AfriForum raises in its submission against the Bill include the following:
- No necessary balance is found between the right to freedom of speech and its potential restrictions.
- The threshold set for defining hate speech is so low that speech protected by the Constitution will also be criminalised.
- The result will be that robust debates and discussions of sensitive political matters will be discouraged. Comedians and cartoonists will live in constant fear of criminal prosecution, for example.
- Fair and accurate reporting of hate speech will be criminalised. Even books stores that keep books in which actual hate speech is covered (for example books on Nazi Germany or the Rwandan genocide) may be prosecuted.
- Imprisonment is imposed where another action would have sufficed. First offenders may be sentenced to three years’ imprisoned, and second offenders to ten years’ imprisonment.
- The Bill allows the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to apply selective and arbitrary prosecutions, which in practice can result in “hate speech” that contains criticism of Government or the ruling party being prosecuted, while the “hate speech” of Government or the ruling party is ignored.
It is for these reasons that AfriForum today embarks on a country-wide campaign to fight the Bill. The following steps will form part of the campaign:
- Continued submissions on the Bill, which includes the possibility of a submission to Parliament.
- AfriForum’s legal team prepares to fight in Court, should the Bill be approved by the National Assembly (NA) and the President.
- The public can support the campaign in the following ways:
- A petition can be signed on AfriForum’s website, where the public can support AfriForum’s campaign to halt this Bill. Visit stoprassisme.co.za.
- A donation of R10 can be made to AfriForum’s legal fund by sending an SMS with the word “Rassisme” to 38312.