The FW de Klerk Foundation is the latest organisation to raise concerns about the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency
Cape Town - The FW de Klerk Foundation is the latest organisation to raise concerns about the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.

The foundation recently made submissions to the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services.

“The foundation is not opposed to the statutory recognition of hate crimes, as there is a clear need to distinguish hate crimes from ordinary crimes so that proper data collection of these specific crimes can take place and it can be properly prosecuted,” said Megan Dick, spokesperson for the foundation, adding the organisation was concerned about the matter.

“We submitted that the current version - although an improved version of the 2017 version - is highly flawed and unconstitutional.”

The bill contains qualities that could potentially pose an existential threat to democracy, the foundation said.

The penalties for contravening the bill may include a fine or imprisonment. The first draft of the bill evoked much controversy during 2017 when it stated the criminalisation of ordinary, everyday insults and conversation.

AfriForum deputy chief executive Ernst Roets said: “The mere propagation of hatred or harm is sufficient for speech to be regarded as hate speech. Another problem is that ‘harm’ is defined in the bill as including emotional harm and social harm.

“Furthermore, the grounds on which hate speech can be committed, according to the bill, are too far-reaching and include age, for example. The consequence is that mocking someone based on their age (such as calling someone an “old fart”) could amount to a criminal offence punishable by three years in jail.

“Our position is that speech can only be hate speech if it contains a direct call for action to be taken against a person or group of persons, based on the four grounds listed in the Constitution - race, ethnicity, gender or religion.”

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Cape Argus