Quote of the week

Regard must be had to the higher standard of conduct expected from public officials, and the number of falsehoods that have been put forward by the Public Protector in the course of the litigation.  This conduct included the numerous “misstatements”, like misrepresenting, under oath, her reliance on evidence of economic experts in drawing up the report, failing to provide a complete record, ordered and indexed, so that the contents thereof could be determined, failing to disclose material meetings and then obfuscating the reasons for them and the reasons why they had not been previously disclosed, and generally failing to provide the court with a frank and candid account of her conduct in preparing the report. The punitive aspect of the costs order therefore stands.

KHAMPEPE J and THERON J
Public Protector v South African Reserve Bank (CCT107/18) [2019] ZACC 29 (22 July 2019)
13 December 2006

Hate speech on the internet

An interesting article in the Mail & Guardian discusses the issue of hate speech on online websites in the wake of an Internet discussion on Zimbabwe on the SABC news website. The discussion soon degenerated into hate speech. The site quotes a lawyer who says:

the constitutional definition of hate speech is very tight and that the context of the publication and the words used must be extreme and actively incite harm to be considered hate speech.

Of course, the definition of hate speech in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair discrimination Act is much broader than in section 16(2). Nevertheless, the constitutional definition of hate speech is not nearly as broad as most people think.

Many people confuse hate speech with hurtful speech. It is not hate speech to be called racial names or to be called a “moffie“. What is required is something more, one needs utterances that “constitute incitement to cause harm” based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion. The harm that is to be incited does not have to constitute physical harm but it must at least constitute serious emotional harm.

And there must be “incitement”.

If one therefore merely says something hurtful to someone else, it will not constitute hate speech as defined in the Constitution. One has to say something that constitutes incitement to cause at least serious emotional harm to a person or a group.

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