SAHRC: We’re open to resolving Bridges case

2015-01-20 15:57
Brigit Rubinstein, legal advisor to the SAHRC, and Tammy Carter of the SAHRC talk to reporters outside the Western Cape High Court. (Paul Herman, News24)

Brigit Rubinstein, legal advisor to the SAHRC, and Tammy Carter of the SAHRC talk to reporters outside the Western Cape High Court. (Paul Herman, News24)

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Cape Town - The South African Human Rights Commission has said it is open to resolving a hate speech case against Afrikaans songstress Sunette Bridges before the matter is heard in the Western Cape Equality Court on 20 April.

Judge Siraj Desai ruled on Tuesday that the Western Cape had jurisdiction to hear the case against the 43-year-old  despite her application to move the case closer to her home in Pretoria, Gauteng.

Initial deliberations for the case, which centres around controversial posts made both by Bridges and other users on her Facebook page, will be heard on 2 March, with the case commencing in earnest on 20 April.

The SAHRC, who filed the case against the singer, however, say they are open to resolving the case with Bridges before the matter heads to court in April, were she to take responsibility for the posts.

“The Human Rights Commission is seeking to bring about understanding,” Tammy Carter, acting provincial manager for the SAHRC in the province, told reporters outside the Western Cape High Court.

“What the court was talking about, nation-building and cohesiveness, this is ultimately the job of the Human Rights Commission, to bring about that process, and that is what we’re seeking to do.

“Whether we do it through processes of mediation and conciliation, or via the courts, all of those are proper process in terms of enabling the legislation of the HRC.

 “The HRC must take a leading role in these matters. We are open to any approaches from her, but will also invite her to speak to us about resolving the issue.”

Brigit Rubinstein, partner at CDH law firm in Cape Town and advisor to the SAHRC, also indicated that the invitation was open to Bridges to resolve the issue.

“We did actually publicly invite her to do so [address the issue], in court this morning [Tuesday],” Rubinstein added.

“The SAHRC preference is to resolve it on the basis of conciliation, of her taking responsibility for those posts that she has made, and deleting those that she regards as racist.”

'Case to answer to'

Advocate Anton Katz, counsel for the SAHRC, argued in court on Tuesday that the issue was a matter of constitutional rights, and that Bridges had a case to answer to.

"If these examples are evidence of hate speech, Sunette Bridges is playing sport with the Constitution,” he said.

“Are these examples evidence of hate speech or not? That's what we want the court to tell us."

Advocate Paul Kruger, attorney for Bridges, however, maintained that his client is not a racist, and can't be held liable for the words of other people.

"My client is being held accountable for comments made by others. She herself never used the k-word, nor quoted Adolf Hitler," he said in court, after the SAHRC cited two examples of other commentators' posts on Bridges' Facebook page.

Speaking to News24 outside the Western Cape High Court, Kruger said his client condemns acts of barbarism from all kinds of people in society.

"I don't think she can be held liable for things other people say on her Facebook page, at least not indiscriminately, indefinitely, and unconditionally," Kruger said.

"These things have to be explored by the court at the next hearing in an expert way, and I'm glad that the judge made that ruling."

The matter resumes in the Western Cape Equality Court on 2 March.
Read more on:    sahrc  |  sunette bridges  |  cape town  |  social media  |  hate speech

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