After a decade of campaigning, Cabinet has announced that a draft of South Africa’s long promised hate crimes bill will be made public.
The news was revealed at a briefing on the outcome of Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting. In a statement, it was confirmed that the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill will be published for public comment.
The Cabinet explained that the bill “is aligned to the National Development Plan which highlights the need for sustained campaigns against racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia and that all people are and feel safe”.
This is the first step in what could be a long legislative process. After the Department of Justice circulates the bill for public comment, it will then consider incorporating suggested changes. There may be a second round of public comment before it is sent to Parliament for consideration and approval.
“The bill seeks to create the offences of hate crimes and hate speech and to put in place measures to prevent and combat these offences,” said government.
“The aim is to address the increasing number of racial incidents and to further address other types of criminal conduct motivated by bias, prejudice or intolerance, in the form of hate crimes and hate speech, which have occurred in the recent past.”
Sanja Bornman, attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights and chair of the Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG), welcomed the news. “South Africa has waited for this legislation since 2010, and we are delighted that it will finally be made available for comment.
“We look forward to the Department of Justice opening the comments process, and we urge all of civil society to engage in wide-spread consultation and debate on the draft law,” she said.
“A hate crimes law creates the legal category of ‘hate crime’ in SA law for the first time, and this will allow us to gather and track statistics on the size and nature of the problem,” explained Professor Juan Nel of PsySSA, also a member of the HCWG.
Matthew Clayton, Research, Advocacy and Policy Manager at Triangle Project and Secretary of the HCWG added: “Triangle Project has been part of the call for a comprehensive hate crimes law for nearly 10 years and is pleased that the Bill has passed another hurdle. The important work of ensuring an open and productive public participation process must now begin and it is essential that LGBTI people make their voices heard.”
“As the increase in hateful rhetoric on social media at the start of this year attests, policies to combat and prevent hate and discrimination are sorely needed in our country”, said Alana Baranov, steering committee member of the HCWG from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.
“South Africa is still healing from our difficult past and much work remains to be done to address deep-seated prejudices and intolerance,” Baranov noted.