‘Racial discrimination complaints on the rise’
Johannesburg - Complaints regarding racial discrimination lodged with the SA Human Rights Commission were on the rise, the commission said on Thursday.
The commission presented a report on equality within SA society.
“The number of complaints received by the commission has increased dramatically in the years since its inception [in 1995], with over 450 complaints on the basis of unfair discrimination in the year ending March 2014,” said head of research Dr Khulekani Moyo.
“A staggering 53 percent of these were complaints of racial discrimination, and 13 percent were related to disability status.”
Discrimination on ethnic or social origin formed 10 percent of the complaints, religion at six percent while sexual orientation, gender and age were at four percent each.
Commissioner Lindiwe Mokate said the complaints regarding racial discrimination cut across many spheres in society.
“We receive complaints on racism in the workplace, in schools and so on. We do a lot of work in the Free State when it comes to these complaints, and also in Gauteng,” she said.
Deputy chairwoman of the commission, Pregs Govender, said the commission received over 300 complaints of hate speech on the basis of sexual orientation in 2008, when former journalist Jon Qwelane published his column titled “Call me names, but gay is not okay.”
Qwelane drew criticism from rights groups who approached the commission with a barrage of complaints. He was found guilty of hate speech against homosexuals in 2011 as a result of his column. Qwelane then filed papers in the Constitutional Court challenging certain provisions the country’s equality laws. He was later appointed ambassador to the anti-homosexual Uganda.
“When Uganda passed its anti-homosexuality law, SA appointed the person [Qwelane] the commission found against for violating gay rights to Uganda as ambassador,” said Govender.
“The commission again approached the courts to ensure that this matter was addressed in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution and relevant legislation. Litigation in this matter is in progress and and the commission is of the view that the determination of this matter through the courts will contribute significantly to the provisions of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (Pepuda).”
The commission recommended that itself, the cultural and language rights commission (CLR) and the Gender Equality Commission work together in dealing with inequality.
“With regard to discrimination, Salga must provide feedback on plans to develop and implement advocacy strategies at community level by the end of the 2015/2016 financial year. In support of this, public awareness must be increased through education and other forms of social vigilance and activism,” said Moyo.
He added that the seemingly ineffectiveness of the Equality Courts needed attention.
“Equality Courts are underutilised at magisterial level. The report highlights the need to train presiding officers and the appointment of judges for these courts. The judges court schedules make it difficult for judges to dedicate sufficient time at the equality court.”
The Department of Justice also needed to adopt the National Action Plan (NAP) by the end of the present financial year to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the report found.