Teachers, preachers, doctors, police and politicians to blame for hate crimes - report

2018-02-08 21:59
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha. ( Linda Mthombeni)

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Johannesburg – The Hate Crimes Working Group on Thursday launched a petition in a bid to pressure the Department of Justice into putting legislation in place that specifically deals with hate crimes.

"It may not be perfect in its draft format but we want to see this Hate Crimes Bill enter the legislative process," said Lawyers for Human Rights' Sanja Bornman, who urged South Africans to sign the ALLOut petition.

Bornman was speaking at the launch of the Hate and Bias Crime Monitoring Form Project report on Thursday.

READ: New hate speech bill opened for public comment

"We want it to go to Cabinet for approval and we want it to be opened up for public comment and participation so that we, as South Africans, have a say about what this bill should look like and we can get that much close to having a law that will show us how we conduct, prevent and intervene in the question of hate crimes," Bornman said.  

The petition reads: "Michael Masutha, South Africa's minister for justice and correctional services. It has been over 10 years since the Department of Justice promised to introduce legislation to protect LGBT people and other vulnerable groups from hate crimes.

"We cannot wait any longer. I urge you to move South Africa's Hate Crimes Bill forward now."

Study first of its kind

The report, which is a 10-year study of hate crimes, looked at cases in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo and the Western Cape.

It set a target to gather 900 cases from South Africans looking at demographics, current incident details, the profile of the alleged offenders, police involvement and reaction.

It also looked at access to court procedures, healthcare and support.

Of the 1 061 cases that were gathered, 945 were retained for analysis.

Hate and Bias Crime Monitoring Form Project leader Professor Juan Nel said the study was the first of its kind.

"Hate incidents have an especially traumatic effect on victims, with additional consequences for communities and societies," said Nel.

'Easy targets'

Yolanda Mitchell, from Ubora Research Solutions (which compiled the report), said victims ranged from infants to elderly people, one as old as 81.

"No one was exempt," she said.

On race, Mitchell said the cases were a representation of the country's demographics.

Some of the more vulnerable groups included persons of other nationalities not born in South Africa, sexual orientation and Judaism.

"People from other nations are easily identifiable because of their physical appearance and language and they can be perceived as easy targets.

"The second most vulnerable group is sexual orientation and the South African Jewish community stood out in cases of hate speech."

Impact 'cumulative, lasting and debilitating'

Mitchell found that in most cases, the perpetrator was not a criminal but a person known to the victim.

"What is concerning is that some perpetrators included teachers, preachers, doctors, nurses, police officers and politicians."

She found that the impact on the victims was cumulative, lasting and debilitating.

Mitchell said most victims turned to NGOs, chapter 9 institutions and statutory bodies instead of going to the police to report incidents because they feared being further victimised.

"There is a lack of trust in the police and others – particularly those of other nationalities – fear being arrested and being told that the police only serve South African citizens."

At the time the study was being conducted, investigations on only 62 cases had been completed and there had been 16 convictions which included hate motives.

In her recommendations Mitchell said there was a need for a legislative bill that would offer guidelines for responses to hate crimes. There was also a need to monitor and record hate crimes. 

Read more on:    michael masutha  |  parliament  |  human rights

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