Cape Town – Saying sorry is not enough to make amends for racism and racist utterances, Parliament heard on Tuesday.
“It seems that, in spite of the public outrage from both black and white South Africans to the recent racist utterances, these utterances continue,” Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery said.
“People seem to think they can just say sorry and then carry on as if nothing happened.”
Ministers and Members of Parliament were debating the recent racist incidents across the country, and reiterated the need for hate speech to be criminalised.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said racism was killing the country.
“Whilst we cannot regulate the people’s attitude, however we can regulate their behaviour through criminalising racism.”
If need be, the Constitution should be amended, he said.
Getting racists to admit that their behaviour was a problem was a step towards finding a solution. Racists had to be rejected and made social outcasts.
Jeffery spoke about the draft National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances, and proposed legislation to combat racism.
Racism must be criminalised
He said the proposed prevention and combating of hate crimes and hate speech bill initially excluded hate speech as a criminal offence.
“However, the events we have been witnessing since January this year highlighted the need to include hate speech, as a criminal offence, in the Bill.”
The bill would be released for public comment before it was introduced to Parliament.
He said all whites benefited from apartheid, regardless of whether they supported it or not.
“Most of us – by that I mean, white people – went to good schools. Our parents had decent jobs, which paid decent wages. Where there were no jobs, jobs were created for whites, either in the Post Office or the railways or somewhere else,” he said
Many whites admitted they had benefited from apartheid, while others continued to see themselves as the victims.
Mthethwa said building a non-racial society was not easy.
Freedom was not free
He began his speech by reciting the names of struggle heroes including Vuyisile Mini, Steve Biko, Ruth First, Chris Hani, Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Solomon Mahlangu, and Hector Peterson.
They had died fighting racism.
“Our country has a lot of its citizens who have amputated souls not noticed through the naked eye, the reason being racism. Indeed our freedom was not free,” he said.