‘SA race re­la­tions so bad, it could lead to civil war’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — Race re­la­tions in South Africa are so bad that it could lead to civil war, re­tired Judge Bernard Ngoepe has warned.

Ngoepe told a fo­rum at the In­sti­tute for the Ad­vance­ment of Jour­nal­ism that racism should be crim­i­nalised.

“Some­times I think road rage be­tween black and white could lead to civil war in this coun­try — if you look at what is hap­pen­ing in this coun­try,” he said.

“Are you not go­ing to crim­i­nalise racism, even though there is the dis­tinct threat that the coun­try may ex­plode? Un­less we crim­i­nalise it, there will be dan­ger to the unity of a na­tion.”

Deputy Jus­tice Min­is­ter John Jef­fery said gov­ern­ment was busy draw­ing up a hate crimes bill as part of its hate crime leg­is­la­tion, aimed at ad­dress­ing crime com­mit­ted “in whole or part be­cause of the iden­tity or the per­ceived iden­tity of a vic­tim”.

He said the bill was be­ing de­layed due to the sec­tion on hate speech, which was com­pli­cated be­cause the Con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees free­dom of speech.

Ini­tially, there was an opin­ion that this should not be in­cluded as a hate crime, “but then it was felt that, be­cause of a slew of racial com­ments when peo­ple seemed to be able to think they can say, ‘sorry I’m not racist, I’ve got black friends’, and get away with it, but ac­tu­ally we should look at crim­i­nal­is­ing hate speech”, he said.

There would be an at­tempt to bal­ance the hate speech pro­vi­sion by mak­ing pro­vi­sion for ex­empt­ing artis­tic ex­pres­sion and re­port­ing in the pub­lic interest.

Jef­fery said the bill would soon be pub­lished for pub­lic com­ment. He said South Africa needed this bill “to be able to move for­ward as a na­tion”.

He said many white South Africans felt that apartheid was abol­ished in 1994 “and there is a view of ‘let’s for­get about the past and move on and be­come an equal op­por­tu­nity so­ci­ety’, but be­cause of the past that is not pos­si­ble”.

White South Africans should ac­cept that the past still played a role in peo­ple’s cur­rent po­si­tion in so­ci­ety, he said.

Law aca­demic Joel Modiri, from the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria, ques­tioned whether such a bill would ad­dress struc­tural in­equal­i­ties.

“How did we get to a point where a ma­jor­ity re­quired pro­tec­tion by the law?” he said.

He said racism could be seen as a psy­cho­log­i­cal is­sue which re­quired rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, but it could also be about struc­tural and power in­equal­i­ties and ad­dress­ing a con­flict cre­ated by “the very ar­rival of whites in this coun­try”.

He said the is­sue was not about leg­is­lat­ing to avoid a civil war. “If you look at the death rates in town­ships, clin­ics, there is [al­ready] a civil war,” he said.

“What kind of free­dom is this that blacks need pro­tec­tion from whites?” — Sapa

Judge Bernard Ngoepe

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