The words ‘hate speech’ gets thrown around a lot in South Africa.
If someone says something that someone else doesn’t like on social media, it’s often quickly declared ‘hate speech’ or ‘defamation’.
The EFF is particularly fond of referring to anything that offends them as infringing on their constitutional rights.
Take the recent case of EWN senior journalist Barry Bateman, who echoed sentiments shared by a large number of South Africans when he called Julius Malema a ‘f*cking p*es’.
Malema might find that offensive, but it isn’t hate speech. Conversely, when Juju called on his supporters to attack the media, that incitement to violence is hate speech.
This is according to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which recently declared the controversial definition of hate speech unconstitutional by finding that a comment is only hate speech if it causes harm as well as incites violence.
Per City Press:
Legal experts say, the full Bench of the court has given short shrift to the hate speech “spiral” that South Africa has found itself in, in which anything from the old South African flag, insults directed at the LGBTIQ community in speeches and even the use of the k-word between black people has been declared hate speech.
In other words, the old definition is incredibly broad.
An advocate, who regularly deals with such cases but who did not want to be identified for professional reasons, told City Press’ sister publication, Rapport, that when the new legislation comes into effect, “hate speech will become a very rare thing”.
Professor André Duvenhage, a political analyst at North-West University, said the judgment was a breakthrough for freedom of expression and that it cleared up much of the uncertainty.
In the future, he added, it will be much more difficult to prove that somebody committed hate speech.
This isn’t a free pass to start saying whatever you like, though.
Professor Anton Kok of the University of Pretoria, who is a specialist in legislation on equality and human rights, said that for offenders who committed violations of dignity by, for example, calling somebody the k-word, the judgment would not have a significant effect.
However, he added, they might still be criminally prosecuted for crimen injuria or be sued in a civil claim.
Crimen injuria refers to a wilful injury to someone’s dignity, caused by the use of obscene or racially offensive language or gestures.
You may recall that crimen injuria is what sunk convicted racist Vicki Momberg.
Overall, we could all be little more respectful and kinder to each other.
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