Four­teen years for racism pol­icy

CityPress - - News - AN­DISIWE MAK­I­NANA an­disiwe.mak­i­nana@city­

It has al­ready taken gov­ern­ment 14 years to fi­nalise its an­tiracism pol­icy, but in light of this week’s so­cial-me­dia out­rage over racist ut­ter­ances, the state is hav­ing yet an­other look at its an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion laws.

Cabi­net ap­proved the pub­li­ca­tion of the draft na­tional ac­tion plan to com­bat racism, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, xeno­pho­bia and re­lated in­tol­er­ance for pub­lic com­ment last month. Mem­bers of the pub­lic have un­til June 30 to make sub­mis­sions on the doc­u­ment.

The plan pro­vides the ba­sis for the de­vel­op­ment of a com­pre­hen­sive pub­lic pol­icy against racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, but it will not be re­plac­ing any of the ex­ist­ing laws and poli­cies that seek to ad­dress racism and racial dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Deputy Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional Devel­op­ment John Jef­fery told City Press this week there was an­other process that gov­ern­ment was look­ing at to crim­i­nalise hate speech.

He said gov­ern­ment had pre­vi­ously at­tempted to come up with a pol­icy frame­work on hate crimes.

“It went to Cabi­net be­fore the last elec­tions but Cabi­net felt it wasn’t a good time be­fore the na­tional elec­tions to try to en­gage in a pol­icy de­bate around hate crimes. It was held back.” He said the view of the de­part­ment was not to pro­ceed with the pol­icy but to look at in­tro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion on hate crimes.

“That is quite far ad­vanced. There is a draft bill and con­sul­ta­tion with the civil so­ci­ety hate crimes work­ing group at the mo­ment, and the in­ten­tion is to take that to Cabi­net in a month or so and then to re­lease it for pub­lic com­ment.”

Jef­fery said the ini­tial view was not to in­clude hate speech as a hate crime be­cause hate speech could be dealt with through the equal­ity court, which was a civil court.

In light of the racist ut­ter­ances that peo­ple were still mak­ing, they would re-eval­u­ate the ex­ist­ing law, called crimen in­juria, which dealt with racism, he said.

“We need to look at whether there are gaps in the law and how can we strengthen it. That is a sep­a­rate in­ter­ven­tion, which will be com­ing shortly and will go out for pub­lic com­ment,” he said.

The na­tional ac­tion plan that is out for pub­lic com­ment is not a law but an in­ter­na­tional pol­icy doc­u­ment that will be lodged with the UN. It arises from the World Con­fer­ence against Racism that was held in Dur­ban in 2001.

“We are quite be­hind in not hav­ing adopted one,” ad­mit­ted Jef­fery.

“It has been worked on for many years. This is about the 15th draft of the na­tional ac­tion plan, but it is fi­nally out for pub­lic com­ment.”

Jef­fery said the pur­pose of the plan was to pro­vide South Africa with a com­pre­hen­sive pol­icy frame­work to ad­dress racism, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, xeno­pho­bia and racial in­tol­er­ance, both at the pub­lic and pri­vate lev­els.

“So it is not just the gov­ern­ment, it’s also for the pri­vate sec­tor and South Africa as a whole. It’s not ex­pected that it will re­place ex­ist­ing laws and pol­icy but rather will be com­ple­men­tary to ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion, pol­icy and pro­grammes that ad­dress equal­ity, eq­uity and dis­crim­i­na­tion,” he said.

Jef­fery added that, look­ing at “the cur­rent con­text” in which there had been ma­jor is­sues re­gard­ing race and at­tacks on im­mi­grants, it was im­por­tant for South Africans to par­tic­i­pate in a dis­cus­sion around the ac­tion plan and to con­trib­ute to com­ing up with the best strate­gies for build­ing a co­he­sive na­tion.

MOV­ING F ORWA RD Deputy Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional Devel­op­ment John Jef­fery

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