Rise in hate speech a sign of the times

2015-11-11 18:04
Dr Piet Croucamp. Picture: Theuns Botha

Dr Piet Croucamp. Picture: Theuns Botha

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More complaints of hate speech have been submitted to the Equality Court partly due to increasing tensions between rich and poor, white and black, the haves and the have-nots. 

According to the justice department’s annual report 36% more hate-speech cases were lodged in 2014-2015 than in the previous year, up from 242 to 328. 

“The general political pressure builds up and the current rhetoric is a manifestation of what is going on below the surface,” said Dr Piet Croucamp, a political analyst at the University of Johannesburg. 

The past few years have seen many well-known personalities land up in trouble over comments on social media platforms that have been regarded as either antiwhite or antiblack. 

According to Croucamp, this rhetoric has been brewing for years. 

Since the inception of the EFF it has increased, he said, but there was already momentum associated with AfriForum’s “shoot the boer” case against Julius Malema, who was then ANC Youth League leader, and even before that during the presidency of Thabo Mbeki. 

The increasing competitiveness between the EFF, the ANC and the DA, as well as the weak economic growth, added to the tension. 

“With fewer opportunities, political tensions increase,” said Croucamp. 

He said the country needed economic growth of between 5% and 6% in order to cool off “the political pressure cooker”. 

Dr Frans Cronje, chief executive of the South African Institute of Race Relations, agreed that the struggling economy contributed to political tensions but believed that the racial tension was not as bad as people thought. 

“If you read newspapers and read what commentators say, you would think we are a week away from a race war, but if you ask people nationwide how they feel about race relations, the data is actually very positive.” 

The institute recently asked 2500 South Africans whether they thought the relationship between different races had improved since 1995. 

About 60% of black and 33.5% of white respondents said yes; so did 34% of coloured and 34% of Asian respondents. 

About 15% of black respondents, 40% of whites, 41% of coloureds and 45% of Asians said it had worsened. The rest said it remained the same. 

“We are not in such a mess as we think. The vast majority of the country’s people are moderate people; it is the hysterical minority that drives the debate in the country,” said Cronje.

Read more on:    equality court  |  hate speech

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