FSA President calls for consistency in application of Hate Crimes Bill

The Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill could potentially lead to Orwellian inequality, said Francois Wilken, President of Free State Agriculture (FSA). Wilken referred to Orwell’s famous dictum, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” as exemplifying the danger of discriminate application of the Bill.

Wilken’s comments reflect concerns that the Bill could be used to silence certain groups and individuals for political gain. Meanwhile, vulnerable minorities – such as South Africa’s beleaguered farming community – could remain ignored and undefended. Discriminate application of hate speech legislation has arguably already been employed in South Africa.

The Bill may therefore offer no new protection to certain groups than existing hate speech legislation. It may, however, be weaponised to clamp down on legitimate free speech. The Bill’s circular definition of “harm”, upon which it predicates its definition of hate speech, is arguably dangerously vague. “There is a risk that discussion of the political scene, and of the issues facing South Africans, could be suppressed using appeals to the Bill,” Wilken stated. “It could even be used to punish political views deemed ‘harmful’ to those who find them offensive, and in this way stifle freedom of thought.”

FSA calls for a reconsideration of the Bill and that attention rather be placed on existing legislation, which – if consistently applied – is arguably sufficient to address hate speech crimes.

VL-president vra vir die konsekwente toepassing van die Haatspraakwetsontwerp

Die Wetsontwerp op die Voorkoming en Bestryding van Haatmisdade en Haatspraak kan moontlik tot Orwelliaanse ongelykheid lei, aldus Francois Wilken, president van Vrystaat Landbou (VL). Wilken het na Orwell se beroemde uitspraak verwys: “Alle diere is gelyk, maar sommige diere is meer gelyk as ander.” Hy stel dit as ‘n voorbeeld van die gevaar om onderskeid in die toepassing van die wetsontwerp te maak.

Wilken se kommentaar weerspieël die heersende kommer dat die wetsontwerp gebruik kan word om sekere groepe en individue vir politieke gewin stil te maak. Intussen kan kwesbare minderhede – soos Suid-Afrika se beleërde boerderygemeenskap – geïgnoreer en onverdedig bly. Onderskeid in die toepassing van haatspraakwetgewing is waarskynlik reeds in Suid-Afrika in gebruik.

Die wetsontwerp kan dus geen nuwe beskerming aan sekere groepe bied as bestaande wetgewing oor haatspraak nie. Dit kan egter as wapen gebruik word om wettige spraakvryheid te onderdruk. Die wetsontwerp se omsendbrief-definisie van “skade”, waarop dit sy definisie van haatspraak grond, is waarskynlik gevaarlik vaag. “Daar is ‘n risiko dat bespreking van die politieke toneel en van die kwessies wat Suid-Afrikaners in die gesig staar, onderdruk kan word deur diegene wat hulle op die wetsontwerp beroep,” het Wilken gesê. “Dit kan selfs gebruik word om politieke sienings te straf wat as ‘skadelik’ vir diegene beskou word wat dié sienings aanstootlik vind. Op hierdie manier word vryheid van denke onderdruk.”

VL vra vir die heroorweging van die wetsontwerp en dat aandag eerder op bestaande wetgewing geplaas word, wat waarskynlik voldoende is om haatspraakmisdade te hanteer indien dit konsekwent toegepas word.