Gospel Defense League's Submission on the Hate Speech Bill
To the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
For the attention of Mr T Ross
Comments by the Gospel Defence League on the
Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill
Submitted by Dorothea Scarborough
General Secretary emeritus
PO Box 832, Milnerton 7435.
The Gospel Defence League have read with interest the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill and would like to make the following comments:
On reading the Bill we wonder whether South Africa really needs this proposed new law in order to protect her people against hate crimes and hate speech. Our country has the most progressive and comprehensive constitution, especially with respect to human rights. Our Bill of Rights guarantees equality before the law, human dignity, life, freedom of religion, belief, opinion, expression, assembly and association etc. These freedoms are defended not only in the courts but also by various commissions and other watchful bodies. Moreover, South Africa has a good number of national and international laws which protect those whose human rights have been violated.
In reading the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill one might almost get the impression that this Bill has been motivated by people who seek victim status and who foster expectations conducive to hate crimes complaints.
The Gospel Defence League therefore proposes that the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill be deemed unnecessary. For, if implemented, it may possibly clash with cherished constitutional rights, such as the rights to freedom of opinion, of speech and of religion. In other countries, for instance, hate speech legislation has been used against religious leaders and institutions who were penalized for nothing more than upholding their doctrines and sacred writings.
In the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill the definition of Hate Speech is very broad. This lack of exactness might tempt some chancers to draw persons whom they perceive as hate speech offenders into unnecessary and ruinous litigation. Also, the acceptance as evidence of so-called victim impact statements suggests that a perceived offender could be prosecuted on the basis of a subjective and unsubstantiated accusation. Might this not encourage possible personal vendettas?
We accept that in every nation there are people who sometimes face anger and insult and have to seek redress. It is therefore good to have laws which protect them. And South Africa has such laws! The Bill in hand may be an overkill.
- Does it, for instance, consider provocation as a cause for hate crime/speech?
- By what measure does it determine “appropriate sentences?” How and by whom are the damages (if any) quantified?
- By what rule are the stiff sentences decided upon?
- Who will receive the fines paid - the victim? Would this not encourage people to lay charges of hate speech/crime?
The Gospel Defence League therefore suggests that this bill be discarded as it will overload the justice system with unnecessary and possibly unwarranted litigation.
As to the envisaged “reporting on the implementation, application and administration of this Act”, the various and detailed mandatory recording/reporting seems to indicate that hate crimes are viewed in a more serious light than all other crime, e.g. such as (farm) murders and rape. Moreover, if such reporting is taken up by the press, this may cause offenders to be branded for social exclusion and possible mob vengeance. (Section 8)
It looks as if a huge bureaucratic system is envisaged to “conduct education and information campaigns on the prohibition against hate crimes… Cabinet members responsible for the administration of justice, policing, communications, basic education and higher education and training, home affairs, and labour must cause programmes to be developed to conduct education and information campaigns ….” (Section 9)
We fear that this intense focus on hate crime prevention may well become a kind of hateful business in itself. For it may cancel out the treasured rights of freedom of belief, freedom of opinion, and freedom of speech and religion. When children and students are ceaselessly regaled with warnings against hate crimes transgressions they will begin thinking in racist terms and find ways of accusing one another.
The Gospel Defence League prays for concord in our multicultural South Africa, and for a continuing betterment of relations with one another. Let us value our human rights and be thankful for the existing safeguards against hate crime.
However, we propose that the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill be withdrawn, for we fear that it will muzzle the nation and not contribute to that peace which, after all, is what we are all committed to.
Let us respect one another, and let us teach our young people the Golden Rule of Jesus Christ which is: “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31) This principle has built up many nations, and will bring to South Africa, too, times of peace and goodwill.