Oscar Pistorius in the high court in Pretoria in 2013. He was on trial for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day that year. Picture: Phill Magakoe
Cape Town - Investigative hearings into racism are a “waste of time”, and always turn into “white-bashing gatherings”.

Speaking at a two-day event hosted by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which dealt with racism and social media, AfriForum deputy chief executive Ernst Roets said racist black people were often forgiven, while white people were punished for being racist.

Roets made reference to former minister for women, children and people with disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, who he said was not punished for her remarks about fallen Paralympian Oscar Pistorius when he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp 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 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."

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

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

He said 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, said the commission was 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, adding the dominance of the English was also an issue.

Makeketa said the commission had 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.”

The Department of Higher Education said Minister Blade Nzimande was in a process of appointing new members of a body which 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 said this weeek that during the 2015/16 financial year, it received 505 race-related complaints. It said the two-day hearing was intended to arrive at an understanding the complexities of online hate speech.

It said the hearing was an opportunity to enquire from authorities about measures to investigate complaints of racist hate crimes or hate speech.