Justice and Constitutional Development Minister, Ronald Lamola, has strongly condemned the racist incident between two students at Stellenbosch University last week and called for the meting out of justice in terms of the law.
He was addressing the South African conference marking the 20th Anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism.
The racist incident at the university emerged after a video of a white student urinating on a black student’s study desk and material began to circulate on social media last week.
“In our sporting teams, in our schools, in our universities [and] our general life, we continue to see incidences of racism and intolerance raising their ugly heads. The incident at Stellenbosch [University] is one too many. It is akin to defecating and urinating on the Constitution itself.
“These kinds of barbaric incidents must be condemned and must be dealt with accordingly and I am glad that the student has opened a case and justice must prevail. We have to appeal to white parents to preach love and diversity in their families. There is no reason for a 21-year-old to be accused of racism in this day and age. This points to the upbringing of the child because this child was born post-democracy,” he said.
Lamola acknowledged that South African law has not always catered for the prosecution of discrimination but added that laws are catching up and modernising.
“To pursue the democratic project, particularly Section 9 of the Constitution, several laws have been enacted to protect the rights of all South Africans. We have recognised that our legislative framework did not cater for racism and prejudice in the mainstream and social media platforms because there was no social media at the time.
“The Electronic Communication and Transaction Act, the National Cyber Security Framework, Regulation of Interception of Communications and Protection of Personal Information Act are instruments to address bigotry and discrimination on social media platforms in any way they manifest themselves,” he said.
The Minister said that added to this, Parliament is concluding its work on the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill which “gives the state a wider reach against hate crimes”.
Xenophobia and homophobia
The Minister said as South Africans commit to stamping out racism, xenophobia must also get the same treatment.
“Equally, the surge of incidences of xenophobia calls for all of us to work together to build a diverse society against and all related intolerance. Self-help cannot be the solution to the challenges of immigration we have as a society. All groups need to participate within the confines of the law and not resort to self-help.
“The state must be the one that continues to enforce the law. There could be a break of trust with regards to the state but it remains the only viable instrument that can do its work and ensure that there’s no violence in ensuring the implementation of the immigration laws in the country. In this regard, it must be clear that we do not encourage lawlessness.
“We should always bear in mind that human dignity has no have nationality. It is inherent in all people, citizens and non-citizens alike, simply because they are human. And while that person may be from another country for whatever reason, it must be respected and it is protected by the Bill of Rights,” he said.
The Minister added that as much as the rights of foreign nationals must be respected, South African immigration and other laws must also be respected by those who come to the country.
“Operations of business must also be done within the confines of the law. It must be done within the confines of local municipalities and the laws of the republic. The law must be adhered to by everyone and if we ensure that the law is adhered to by everyone…we are going to avoid incidences of self-help by people who try to take the law into their own hands,” he said.
The law is enforced in South Africa regardless of the nationality of would-be perpetrators.
“Enforcement of the law cannot be characterised as xenophobia particularly where the state acts within the confines of the law. The state must not be bullied into being scared to do its duty in terms of the prescripts of what is expected by all government departments and the state itself in enforcing the law,” he said.
The Minister highlighted that with hate crimes also on the rise, South Africans must also respect the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) community.
“We must know that as well, the surge in hate crimes against people with different sexual orientation and gender identity tells us that we must continue to spread love and diversity. That everyone is equal irrespective of the sexual orientation,” he said.
A base line study to determine the levels of racism, anti-foreigner sentiment, homophobia and racial incidents, inter-racial relations and perceptions of national identity is expected to be released today
The study has been commissioned by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and was conducted by the HSRC. – SAnews.gov.za