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FSA President calls for consistency in application of Hate Crimes Bill

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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.