Little Free Speech in South Africa [Remember Nelson Mandela, now a secular saint, was a member of the Communist Party of South Africa]

South Africa should introduce a register for people who make racist comments: High Court ruling

Ryan Brothwell27 February 2020

In light of the seriousness of the racial attitudes harboured by some in our society, the time may have come for the government to consider establishing a “register” of offenders of this type of conduct.

This was one of the findings in an Eastern Cape High Court ruling this week, which focused on the case of a woman who reportedly used the k-word against a handyman who worked in her retirement village.

“The purpose of this register would be to enter the details of those who relentlessly treat the foundational values that underpin our constitution with disdain and who undermine the efforts in building a cohesive non-racial society,” the court said in its judgement.

“This may also serve as a constant reminder to anyone that, to refer to other people of a different race with disparaging and degrading descriptions, is contempt to the progressive agenda this nation adopted in 1994 in its quest to build a non-racial society.”

The issue of racial comments remains an incredibly sensitive topic in South Africa with the country’s courts dealing with a number of cases around the issue.

People who publicly use derogatory words and other expressions of racism may face legal sanctions including private claims for defamation as well as criminal charges for crimen injuria.

Despite these harsh consequences, there have been numerous incidents of people publicly using overtly racist and often taboo words to describe others, says Hugo Pienaar, a director at law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr who was commenting on the issue in 2019.

“The Constitution prohibits racism through safeguarding every person’s rights to dignity and equality. It also expressly limits the right to freedom of expression to exclude the advocacy of hatred which is based on race,” he said.

“Recent cases have emphasised that our society and law is taking a zero-tolerance policy towards racism and the use of derogatory language.”