The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Wednesday said that while it appreciated the urgency of the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, it wanted to consider the matter for greater clarity before it decides on the way forward.
The Bill aims to criminalise both hate crimes and speech, in response to the increasing number of prejudice-motivated incidents. The Bill also seeks to assist victims of these crimes and puts in place measures to prevent and combat these offences.
Committee chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga said that it was suggested that should a person be convicted of hate crimes, the Bill will provide for the courts to impose sentencing, including imprisonment, periodical imprisonment, a fine and correctional supervision, depending on the base crime.
“In terms of hate speech, the Bill makes provision for imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years in the case of a first conviction, or a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years in the case of a subsequent conviction,” said Motshekga in a statement.
The Bill does not provide for alternatives such as restorative justice.
The Bill allows for offences to be heard only in high and regional courts, where experienced officers are able to adjudicate.
Meanwhile, the offence of hate speech makes provision for any person who intentionally publishes, propagates or advocates anything or communicates to one or more persons in a manner that could be reasonably construed to demonstrate a clear intention to be harmful, or to incite or to promote or propagate hatred based on several categories. These include, among others: age, albinism, birth, colour, culture, disability, ethnic or social origin, gender, HIV status, language, nationality and sex.
Motshekga said South Africans would be pleased with the Bill, particularly in light of the increasing intolerance that South Africa is witnessing.