Protection of Free Speech

UPDATE (May 2019): Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill [B9 – 2018] (“the Bill”)

On 28 August 2018 the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services (a committee of the National Assembly) published a call for public comments on the amended version of the Bill, which was withdrawn a few days later (according to the Committee secretary: for further Committee consultations).

The Committee again published a call for public comments on 26 November 2018 (which was open until 31 January 2019, then extended to 15 February 2019).

CFJ delivered additional submissions on the amended Bill during February. The fifth Parliament has since discontinued its work, leaving the Bill in limbo and dependent on the Sixth Parliament’s mandate – whether to take it forward or shelve it for the time being.


UPDATE (September 2018): Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill (“the Bill”)

On 13 April 2018, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services introduced Bill B9-2018 (an amended version of the draft Bill referred to hereinbelow) in the National Assembly. On 30 May 2018, the Minister and Deputy Minister briefed the Portfolio Committee on the content of the Bill.

CFJ delivered written submissions on the initial draft Bill. Since an amended version of the Bill has now been introduced, the public must be given an opportunity to comment on it. Once Parliament publishes an invitation for public comment, CFJ will make further submissions on the new version of the Bill.


History Of The Bill

On 24 October 2016, the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development released the draft Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill. After government has taken almost four years to draft the draft Bill, the public was initially only given five weeks to critically interact with and comment thereon.

CFJ submitted a letter to the Minister of Justice, requesting an extension of the deadline on 16 November 2016. The Minister’s office approved an extension of the date for public comment up to 31 January 2017. CFJ made submissions to the Department on the deadline date:

  1. View a summarised version of our submissions (on the draft Bill) in our press release HERE.
  2. See our full submission (on the draft Bill) HERE. 
  3. View the Afrikaans press release, click HERE.


About the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill

The Bill purports to create two new criminal offences in South African law, namely “hate crime” and “hate speech”. In terms of the Bill, the penalty for “hate speech” is a fine or 3 years’ jail time for a first offence, and 5 years (for comparison: the draft Bill stipulated  a 10-year sentence) for a repeated offence. The Bill is causing great concern in many quarters and Cause for Justice is equally concerned about the potential overbroad and unconstitutional consequences which could flow from the Bill as its stands. Even though the amended Bill is somewhat improved in comparison to the draft Bill, there is still serious cause for concern.



What will happen if we do nothing?
  • Many definitions, in the Bill are over-broad and will have severe implications for FREEDOM OF SPEECH and other freedoms, notably also FREEDOM OF RELIGION. The Bill has the potential to prohibit people to communicate their convictions, thoughts and opinions, no matter how deeply held and objectively supported these may be. It also proposes to criminalise many forms of communication that over-sensitive individuals or groups may subjectively experience as threatening, abusive or insulting.
  • The current language of the Bill is therefore very subjective in some respects (focusing on the feelings and perceptions of the potential receiver of communication), with no objective standard whereby it can be measured for reasonableness.
  • Because the Bill purports to criminalise speech, people may end up going to jail for saying something that is not “politically correct”, EVEN IF THEY DO OBJECTIVELY NOT ADVOCATE HATRED OR INCITE HARM AGAINST ANYONE.



Protecting the right to voice an opinion or conviction
  • In addition to postponing the deadline whereby the public must comment on the draft Bill, we will-
  • Leave no stone unturned to ensure that the Bill contains clear and workable definitions and wording that will not erode constitutional freedoms of speech and religion.

In our opinion the Bill should not be passed in its current form. We are committed to ensuring that all South Africans’ rights are protected. Cause for Justice will making oral representations when Parliament hosts public hearings on the Bill and raise our concerns with regards to the problem areas contained in the current version of the Bill.



How can you help us / How have you helped us?
  • Thank you to everyone who submitted their submissions on the draft Bill to the Department. Together, our voices make a noise!
  • We would also like to thank our supporters for helping us drive this cause.
  • To assist us in driving this important cause forward, you can support us by making a donation here.

For more information and regular updates on this cause, follow us on Facebook  and Twitter.  


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