The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services today received a briefing on the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which aims to criminalise both hate crimes and speech.
The committee heard that the bill seeks to address the increasing number of incidents motivated by prejudice, in the forms of hate crimes and hate speech, and to assist people who are victims of such crimes. The Bill also puts in place measures to prevent and combat these offences.
Committee Chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga said South Africans will be pleased with the Bill, particularly in light of the increasing intolerance South Africa has witnessed recently.
In terms of the Bill, such offences will only be heard in high and regional courts, where experienced officers will be able to adjudicate. The Bill makes it a hate crime if a person commits any recognised offence under the law, referred to as the “base crime or offence”, if the commission of that offence is motivated by prejudice or intolerance on the basis of one or more characteristics or perceived characteristics of the victim, as listed in the Bill.
The offence of hate speech is created and 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.
The Bill also allows for exclusions, such as freedom of the press and other media, freedom to receive or impart information or ideas, freedom of artistic creativity, academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
The committee heard that should a person be convicted of hate crimes, the Bill provides 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. The Bill does not provide for alternatives such as restorative justice.
Dr Motshekga said the committee appreciates the urgency of the matter, nonetheless, the committee would first like to consider the matter for greater clarity, before it decides on the way forward.
Issued by Parliamentary Communication Services on behalf of the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, Mathole Motshekga