The civil rights organisation AfriForum has made a written submission to the Select Committee on Security and Justice regarding the proposed Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill. AfriForum has submitted written comments against this proposed Bill in 2019 and 2021 and did an oral presentation in 2022 before the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, outlining the organisation’s concerns about the Bill. The Bill is now once again open for public comment.
It is crucial to note that the constitutional standard for hate speech has two qualifiers. Hate speech encompasses speech that advocates hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and which contains incitement to cause harm. According to the Bill, however, the mere propagation of hatred is sufficient for speech to be regarded as hate speech. This Bill further waters down the constitutional right to freedom of expression through its widening of the definition of “harm” to include emotional and social harm.
AfriForum is also concerned about the worsening double standards that have taken root regarding hate speech when it comes to court verdicts, government application of legislation and media condemnation. This Bill only creates further potential for these harmful double standards to be applied with greater prejudice and severity.
The fact that Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery directed hateful, stereotyping comments at Afrikaners during a 2023 meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on this exact Bill, which claims to want to protect groups from that type of speech, demonstrates exactly why AfriForum does not support granting the government more power to police speech in accordance with its clear double standards.
Ernst van Zyl, Campaign Officer for Strategy and Content at AfriForum, says it appears that genuine hate speech is increasingly being condoned or even encouraged against groups like racial minorities, Afrikaners, or farmers, while speech which does not qualify as hate speech by constitutional standards is increasingly treated as hate speech when it targets certain privileged groups.
“AfriForum is committed to the principle of freedom of expression and is also in favour of legislation regarding genuine hate speech in the South African context. We cannot however support the further expansion of hate speech legislation within a disturbing context of blatant double standards where symbols which contain no call to violence are declared hate speech, while open calls to violence like the Kill the Boer chant are condoned, brushed off and allowed.”
AfriForum encourages the public to add their names and give AfriForum a mandate against this dangerous Bill at www.hatespeech.co.za.