The EFF's Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Pretoria - The South African Human Right Commission (SAHRC) has badly neglected its duties to act preventively and to be actively and earnestly consistent in its approach to efficiently confront racism and racist conduct, particularly hate speech, and a drastic review of its mandate and activities is required, the Afrikanerbond said on Saturday.

The Afrikanerbond was gravely concerned that 2018 had been a step backwards to a society again divided by racism, particularly hate speech, Afrikanerbond chief secretary Jan Bosman said in a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

"If South Africa wants to lay claim to a non-racial democracy, it will be necessary to reflect on the public pronouncements made this year. It is our impression that there has been an increase in racist undertones, hate speech, and inflammatory race-based utterances, especially by leaders of political parties and organisations, and that these have an extremely polarising effect; we are referring to Julius Malema of the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] and Andile Mngxitama of Black First Land First (BLF) in particular," he said.

In the coming months leading up to the general elections in 2019 the polarisation of South African communities would continue to grow if hate speech and racism were not dealt with in a level-headed way.

"We, therefore write to you because we are deeply concerned about the non-functioning of the South African Human Rights Commission. The South African Constitution grants the South African Human Rights Commission a mandate and also determines its activities and, especially, its duties," he said.

According to section 184(1), “the South African Human Rights Commission must - 

(a) promote respect for human rights and a culture of human rights;

(b) promote the protection, development, and attainment of human rights; and

(c) monitor and assess the observance of human rights in the Republic”.

Section 184(2) stipulated that the “The South African Human Rights Commission has the powers, as regulated by national legislation, necessary to perform its functions, including the power - 

(a) to investigate and to report on the observance of human rights; and

(b) to take steps to secure appropriate redress where human rights have been violated”.

"After various complaints in the last few years, it has unfortunately been our experience that the SAHRC is not qualified to carry out the mandate or to comply with or perform its duties and activities as set out in the Constitution. Above all, the SAHRC has heinously neglected its duties to act preventively and to be actively and earnestly consistent in its approach to efficiently confront racism and racist conduct, particularly hate speech," Bosman said.

Over the past few years, the SAHRC had clearly shown that it was not fulfilling its constitutional duties. The Bill of Rights was not applied consistently and was also not judged in a balanced way. Unfortunately, the SAHRC had disappointed in its role as guardian and custodian of the Bill of Rights thus far.

"We have requested the SAHRC in various letters to call public representatives, in particular, to order, but the SAHRC is conspicuous in its absence in respect of honouring its constitutional task and mandate. 

"We do not in any way deny that South Africa is still wrestling with racism in all communities and among all races, whether white or black. The South African Human Rights Commission must, however, be held accountable for South Africa’s new racism because it has visibly allowed hate speech and inflammatory speech to remain unanswered," he said.

"Therefore, the intent of our letter is to urge you [Ramaphosa] to intervene in a process regarding which national parliament has been dragging its feet as far back as 2007 with the report of the ad hoc committee on the review of chapter 9 and associated institutions, 21 August 2007 (the so-called Asmal Report), as well as a review of the process in 2017, which amounted to nothing whatsoever.

"In the interests of our Constitution, reconciliation, and your ideal that 'together we seek peace for this torn, tragic, divided South Africa', it is necessary to drastically and urgently initiate a process to review the mandate and activities of the South African Human Rights Commission, as well as to address the serious gaps and lack of efficiency of this statutory chapter 9 constitutional body, since racial polarisation is probably at its worst since apartheid," Bosman said.

African News Agency (ANA)