The Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG) says that the recent spate of hate crimes, including six LGBTIQ+ murders in a two-and-a-half-month period, shows the urgent need to pass the Hate Crimes Bill.
On 16 April, the HCWG – a multi-sectoral network of civil society organisations – sent an urgent letter to Parliament, including the Minister of Justice, asking for reasons why the Hate Crimes Bill has still not been passed into law; and asking for clear timeframes for the Bill’s enactment.
The HCWG expressed its concern and dismay that there has been “little to no progress” on the passing of the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which was first drafted in 2016.
The group said that despite the National Action Plan (NAP) highlighting the Hate Crimes Bill, the need for the legislation, as well as the positive outcomes that it will have, “no further progress on the passing of the hate crimes Bill has been achieved since the approval of the NAP by Cabinet in February 2019.”
The HCWG also noted that on 16 July 2019, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola stated that a priority for the Sixth Parliament was to pass the hate crimes legislation and that his department would promote its passage.
While the Bill was revived on 29 October 2019, the Department of Justice does not appear to have followed through with Minister Lamola’s commitment. “It has now been over a year and five months since the Bill’s revival and no further progress has been made with respect to the passing of the Bill into law,” said the HCWG.
“This clearly contradicts the statement made by Minister Lamola quoted above, and also undermines the sentiment expressed in the National Action Plan.”
The HCWG believes that the lack of prioritisation of hate crimes legislation by the Department of Justice is “cause for grave concern, and has a direct negative impact on many individuals, and victims of hate crimes.”
The group acknowledged that one of the reasons said to be behind the delay is that the outcome of the still-awaited Jon Qwelane Constitutional Court case could impact on the hate speech aspect of the Bill.
However, the HCWG argues that the Bill could still have been passed with a clause indicating that the specific provisions or chapter relating to hate speech be delayed in coming into operation until a future date.
“This has been done in respect of other pieces of legislation, and there is no reason why the same could not happen in respect of the Hate Crimes Bill,” said the HCWG.
The network has called on Parliament to provide – before Freedom Day, 27 April 2021 – the reasons as to why no progress has been made in passing the Hate Crimes Bill and “a clear schedule and timeframes as to when the Bill will be prioritised and steps taken for the Bill to be passed.”