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Racism conferences a waste of time, says AfriForum

Politics
Johannesburg – The Deputy CEO of AfriForum, Ernst Roets, on Thursday said conferences such as the investigative hearing into racism on social media hosted by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) were "a waste of time" and they tend to turn into "white bashing" gatherings.

The two-day investigative hearing into racism and social media in Braamfontein, began on Wednesday at SAHRC offices in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

In his submission into possible remedies to racism and hate speech, Roets said racist black people were forgiven while white people were being punished for such offences.

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Deputy CEO for Afriforum Ernst Roets File photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

To make his point, Roets made reference to former Minister for Women, Children people with disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, who he said was not punished for her remarks about fallen Olympian Oscar Pistorius when he shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013.

Xingwana later apologised for saying: "Young Afrikaner men are brought up in the Calvinist religion believing that they own a woman, they own a child, they own everything and therefore they can take that life because they own it."

Roets said Standard Bank economist Chris Hart, who was suspended faced severe criticism and subsequently quit his job over his controversial tweet which read: “More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities ...”.

The Afriforum boss said when it came to violent crime in which the perpetrators were white and the victims black such crime were dealt with so much enthusiasm, but not when it was the other way around.

Roets said the media "is very biased" and they "would rather focus on girls complaining about wearing their natural hair in school than on a university student calling for white genocide".

Roets sarcastically remarked that the government would rather focus on cable theft than the murder of white farmers.

Brian Makeketa, from the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) said they are faced with issues of prejudice and discrimination, mainly based on religion and not racism.

"Our constitution favours Christianity a lot, which is why when you speak of religion people assume you are speaking about Christianity. For instance, when you look at our public holidays, other religions are not acknowledged but Christianity is and that excludes a number of people who then feel discriminated," said Makeketa.

"The second issue is the dominance of the English language. At what point is the constitution going to implement the other 10 official languages?"

Makeketa said the CRL Rights Commission has strategies in place to deal with the challenges of religion and basic human rights.

"We have an education unit, where we reach out to people in the rural areas and teach them about their rights. In a case of hate speech based on religion, mediation works ... we call the perpetrator and the victim to our offices and try to resolve the matter."

The Department of Higher Education said the minister was in a process of appointing new members of the committee that will establish the oversight committee on transformation in South African Universities.

"We have call centres for receiving complaints in the entire post-schooling sector. The complaints are referred to to the relevant branches for processing," the department said.

The SAHRC on Wednesday said during the 2015/2016 financial year it received 505 race-related complaints.

“This indicates that despite the significant achievements over the past 23 years of democracy, deep inequalities and unfair discrimination remain a serious concern.”

The SAHRC said the two day hearing was intended to arrive at an understanding the complexities of online hate speech, whether private companies ought to have the same responsibilities as public authorities in dealing with online hate, and whether these responsibilities should be derived from human rights law, among others.

It said the hearing presented an opportunity to enquire from implementing authorities about measures in place to investigate complaints pertaining to racist hate crimes or hate speech.

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