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Lives are at stake: LGBTIQ+ sector awaits promised response from Dept of Justice on hate murders

On 5 May, civil society organisations (CSOs) from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) sector met online with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Ronald Lamola, and other members of his department.

The meeting was sparked by a recent horrifying spike in murders of LGBTIQ+ people that has seen at least ten known individuals killed since 12 February 2021. It also followed a 21 April press conference, petition and joint statement supported by more than 30 South African CSOs demanding action to address the wave of LGBTIQ+ violence and hate.

In the 5 May meeting, the Minister acknowledged that the National Task Team (NTT), the Rapid Response Team (RTT) and the Provincial Task Teams (PTTs), which are led by the department and are intended to address hate crimes, were dysfunctional.

This is due to various delays, a lack of funding and resources and the failure of some stakeholders, particularly the SAPS, to participate in these fora. Some members of the Justice Department have also failed to meet their commitments and/or respond to communications from the LGBTIQ+ sector.

The Minister revealed that only R2.4 million of the R26 million National Implementing Strategy budget had been allocated towards PTT and NTT activities.

The meeting also addressed the delay in the passage of the desperately-needed Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill (Hate Crimes Bill).

The Minister asked that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ & CD) be given 21 days to respond to the questions and concerns of the LGBTIQ+ sector raised in the meeting.

The LGBTIQ+ sector is thus expecting to receive the feedback from the DOJ & CD by 26 May 2021 concerning the below issues, as outlined in the May 5th meeting:

  • We would like clarity on whether the LGBTI programme stationed within the DOJ & CD will move from the branch of Constitutional Development to Court Services as previously indicated and if so, what is the timeline and what are the budgetary implications of this?
  • It was mentioned that the post for the Assistant Director for the LGBTI programme and three supporting admin positions will be advertised by the DOJ & CD. When can we expect people to be appointed to these positions?
  • How will the DOJ & CD hold the South African Police Service (SAPS) accountable for continued non-attendance at the PTTs as well as the RRT?
  • It was mentioned that the Deputy Generals of each of the departments sitting on the NTT will be contacted to nominate officials to attend and be accountable at meetings. When will this action take place and can CSOs receive a list of these representatives?
  • When will the promised senior official be appointed to co-chair the European Union/ South Africa task team?
    Can the directorate hold Deputy Director General Adv Gabriella La Foy to account for her unresponsiveness to communication from CSOs and with regard to budgetary concerns in relation to the EU funds?
  • Will DOJ & CD put pressure on the DOJ & CD portfolio committee to escalate the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill? The ask from CSOs is that the Bill need not wait on the Jonathan Dubula Qwelane v South African Human Rights Commission and Another ruling as that Constitutional Court judgement deals specifically with hate speech and the delay is not an adequate or reasonable response from the Department of Justice or the legislature. It is perfectly reasonable that the Bill could be enacted, 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 date could either be confirmed by Proclamation or set for a reasonable time period in the future which would ensure the legislature has time to amend provisions relating to hate speech in the Bill, if necessary, once the Constitutional Court has handed down judgment in the Qwelane matter. 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.

The above concerns and demands were reiterated in a subsequent letter sent on 14 May 2021 to the following officials at the DOJ & CD: Minister Ronald Lamola, Deputy Minister John Jefferey and Director-General Advocate Dr Mashabane.

The LGBTIQ+ sector would like to note that its engagement with the DOJ & CD is only one aspect of its efforts to ensure that all South Africans – including religious and traditional leaders and the media – respect, protect and affirm the rights, dignity and safety of the LGBTIQ+ community.

We urge all supporters and allies to sign the online petition demanding action against LGBTIQ+ hate and violence in South Africa.