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Voices

Another step forward for Hate Crimes Bill

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Long in the pipeline, the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill took a further step towards promulgation this week with public hearings on the proposed legislation. Last October, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) put in a written submission on the Bill and on Tuesday, 29 March, was one of the organisations that made oral representation before the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services. Another organisation making a submission was the Hate Crimes Working Group, of which the Board is a founder and steering committee member. Alana Baranov, who presented on our behalf to the portfolio committee, represents us on this body, and was involved in the preparation of its submission.

The Board has involved itself with this issue from the beginning because when it comes to fulfilling our mandate of protecting the Jewish community and upholding its civil rights, anti-hate crimes legislation is of crucial importance. We’re regularly called on to take action in terms of these laws, on occasion even at Constitutional Court level, and though the process is often long and arduous, these efforts have almost invariably been crowned by success. Indeed, from the adoption of our present Constitution onwards, the input of the SAJBD and the outcomes of the litigation it has engaged in have had a significant impact on South African law, particularly in the area of preventing hate speech.

In our submission, we sought, so far as possible, to give practical focus to how we saw the Bill being implemented successfully. One of the shortcomings of the present system that badly needs addressing, we said, was that the institutions responsible for addressing hate-crimes-related matters (including the South African Human Rights Commission and Equality Courts) are severely under-resourced. Another is that training and education is urgently needed about what constitutes hate crimes and hate speech for those required to implement those laws, particularly for law-enforcement workers on the ground and at Magistrates Court level.

SAUJS sees off annual IAW challenge

“Healing over Hate” was the campaign theme adopted by Jewish students in response to this year’s Israel Apartheid Week jamboree. As in previous years, the emphasis was on fostering education and debate with a view to finding solutions, as opposed to the black-and-white demonisation and delegitimisation tactics of the other side. Once again, as shown by the on-campus interaction between SAUJS and the general student body, the former approach resonated far more effectively with the average student. The Board supported SAUJS leadership throughout, including National Director Wendy Kahn and myself meeting the administration of the University of Pretoria to address certain concerns. Though there was the occasional unpleasant incident, these were fortunately rare. I commend our students for the dignified and constructive manner in which they responded to this latest propaganda stunt which has helped ensure that our university campuses continue to provide space for diversity of opinion and civil debate.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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