Tag Archive | Minister Jeff Radebe

Hate speech remains in Hate Crimes Bill

Obsession with Facebook slows draft 

….sent to clients 15 Jan…  The highly controversial draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill has been published by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for comment. Submissions are now being considered.  The Bill has been in the making for almost ten years.

Whilst provisions to deal with proven instances of hate crimes were welcomed in general, the department has said, many expressed their doubts regarding the more recent inclusion of hate speech into the draft provisions, particularly in the light the effect that such provisions could have on freedom of speech. For this to be included is still the preferred route, the department said, but the implications are being carefully studied.

Testing the water

In November 2016, it was Cabinet’s decision to publish the Bill in the knowledge that many would object to the hate speech provisions and consequently the department has openly said the publication of the draft was very much to “test the water”.

Whilst activists have in general expressed in the media approval of the fact that a draft, after such a long wait, has finally appeared, lawyers have commented that if hate speech is to be included then “the bar on onus of proof must be set very high and intent to incite must also be proven beyond any doubt.”

Others have indicated concern that the inclusion of hate speech was so controversial that it could delay a much-needed piece of legislation by endless argument surrounding the curtailment of freedom of speech.

 

Overall aims

The Bill says it aims “to give effect to South Africa’s obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights instruments concerning racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in accordance with international law obligations; to provide for the offence of hate crimes and the offence of hate speech; and the prosecution of persons who commit those crimes [and] to provide for appropriate sentences that may be imposed on persons who commit hate crime and hate speech offences”.

At the time of writing (12 Jan) no Bill has yet been tabled on the subject by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe.   However, speaking at a meeting of the working group dealing with the draft, his Deputy Minister, John Jeffery, said that racist remarks made on social media platforms by people such as Penny Sparrow indicated to the department a growing need to include hate speech provisions.

Unintended consequences

Sanja Bornman, the chairperson of the working group and managing attorney of Lawyers for Human Rights’ Gender Equality Project, said the inclusion of the hate speech provisions was “very bad news for victims of hate crime, which affects a wide range of people based on race, nationality, gender identity and many other grounds”.  She added that the group was “Nevertheless, very happy that the Bill was finally out for comment”.

According to media reports, she commented that contrary to the deputy minister comments, that the inclusion of hate speech provisions “were not at the behest of the working group” and that its members were “surprised” to hear that such had been included.

 Social media

This indicates, of course, that the move to include hate speech might have been politically motivated from the top but all the same Bornman has admitted that when work first started on the Bill some years ago, social media did not occupy such a prominent position it now has in society and this move may have come as a result.

The deputy minister said the working group would remain at the job of dealing with the input of submissions and a final draft may emerge in February 2017. The Penny Sparrow incident seems concluded but whether both Ministers are satisfied remains to be seen.

ends

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Legal Practices Bill looks like having a safe passage

Opposition bound to come on separation of powers

The amount of work done behind the scenes between private judicial parties and the ministry of justice that took place before the tabling of the Legal Practices Bill by justice minister Jeff Radebe, appears to account for the remark made by department of justice official, JB Skosana, to opposition parliamentarians that “account had to be taken of the significant concessions made in the bill by the justice minister in tabling the Bill”. The Bill is a Section 76 Bill meaning that it has to go to all nine provinces for debate and mandates through the NCOP.

During public hearings on the bill earlier, Adv. Jeremy Gauntlett said in his submission that the Bill as proposed was “the biggest single threat to an independent legal profession in SA’s legal history”. More public hearings are scheduled and the final date for submissions extended (July 31).

Department of justice, in giving their responses to all submissions made during the original hearings told the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice and constitutional affairs that his department could not “find anything opposed to law” and, they added, “On the contrary, we believe the bill will strengthen the rule of law.”

Bill says professions must reflect national demographics

Skosana told parliamentarians that it was the department’s view, after many discussions with the legal profession, that their “continued independence now permeated the bill”. The Bill proposes that advocates be treated the same as attorneys, which may result in conflict with these professions

Skosana said that in the original draft the proposal was that the minister should appoint all members of the new council to replace existing structures such as the Law Society but the bill before them clearly showed that that 16 of the 21 members would be appointed by the profession, three by the minister and one each from the law schools and the Legal Aid Board.

This represented “a U-turn”, Skosana said, on the part of the minister, drawing comment from opposition members that indeed such concessions were in the right direction. From this it appeared that the Legal Practices Bill will see safe passage through both the NA and the NCOP.

Nevertheless, the main issue at the core of the debate and the main raison d’être for the bill’s introduction was clearly, from representations made by the department of justice in their earlier briefings, to deal with the high cost of legal fees in South Africa. The Bill as proposed raises the issue of “capping” fees, giving the new council powers to do this through the minister.

ANC will push Bill through

Such facts have clearly emerged in government statements recently, particularly in the area of transport where past deputy minister of transport, Jeremy Cronin, had complained bitterly on the issue of high legal fees which had drained the Road Accident Fund.

Departmental official Skosana complained that “the only people who could easily access legal services was the state when using taxpayers’ money; the very poor getting assistance from the Legal Aid Board.” He added that the wording of the proposed Bill said fees would be capped only as a result of advice by the new council.

The bill is now to be debated amongst parliamentarians of the committee themselves and more consultation in the form of hearings called for.

 

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Justice, constitutional, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments


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