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Racists could spend up to 10 years behind bars

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said on Monday that the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill will be out for public comment until December 1. Picture: Masi Losi

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said on Monday that the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill will be out for public comment until December 1. Picture: Masi Losi

Published Oct 25, 2016

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Parliament - The government is taking a tough stance against racists following an increase in racism incidents this year, with proposed punitive sanctions against perpetrators.

In a bill that will be tabled in Parliament soon, the government has proposed a fine or three-year prison sentence for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders could spend up to 10 years behind bars.

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Justice Minister Michael Masutha said on Monday that the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill will be out for public comment until December 1.

He said they would no longer tolerate hate crimes of any form, including crimes against the LGTBI community. The bill was approved by the cabinet on Wednesday.

Cases of hate speech and hate crimes are to be heard in the regional courts.

“The very fact we are referring matters of this nature to the regional courts elevates the seriousness of the offences,” said Masutha.

“It is a way to send a strong signal to society that South Africa has reached a point to say it will not tolerate racism.”

He said the final version of the bill must reflect the collective wisdom of the country.

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Several incidents of racism have been reported to the courts, involving a number of people including DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard.

Penny Sparrow of KwaZulu-Natal and another estate agent, Vicki Momberg, have appeared in court for allegedly making racist comments. Sparrow, a retired estate agent, is facing charges of crimen injuria in the Umzinto Magistrate’s Court.

Masutha said this bill was not unique to South Africa as other countries had similar measures to deal with racism.

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The government studied Kenya, Canada and Australia, among others, to look at how they were handling these matters.

Masutha said they hoped the bill would reduce incidents of racism or any form of hate speech and hate crimes.

The legislative mechanism was a necessary instrument to deal with the scourge. Masutha said the government had consulted widely on the bill, and they wanted the country to have its say as well. After the public comment phase, the bill will be tabled before Parliament.

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Despite the fact there were penalties in the existing laws, these were not broad enough to cover all the areas and the sentences were not sufficiently punitive, he said.

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