- Submissions on the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act appear to be duplicate comments.
- The justice and correctional services ministry says the bill seeks to prevent discrimination and to promote equality.
- Several religious organisations have raised concerns around the Pepuda bill.
Most submissions on the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (Pepuda) appear to be duplicate comments, albeit submitted by different persons or groups.
This is according to the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services, which has reiterated that the bill seeks to distinguish between the duty of the state and public bodies in eliminating discrimination, promoting equality and achieving equality.
Ministry spokesperson Crispin Phiri said the department was studying the submissions received.
The bill makes provision for the prohibition of retaliation against people who object to a discriminatory act, omission, or instituted proceedings.
"It should be noted that Chapter 5 of Pepuda, which deals with the promotion of equality, was never put into operation due to concerns about, amongst others, the regulatory burden that will be placed on all sectors in respect of reporting requirements. The amendments now seek to address these concerns, noting that promotion of equality is essential to the affirmation of equality as a foundational value of our Constitution and as such must be operationalised through legislation," he said.
But not everyone is happy with the provisions in the bill.
The United Ulama Council of South Africa said the avalanche of public comments on the bill were ones of dismay.
The council’s secretary-general Yusuf Patel described the bill as an attempt to impose a straitjacket ideology on South Africans, promoting conflict rather than reducing it.
"The Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development [John Jeffrey] intimated that a clause may be included in the bill which will provide specific protection of religious rights. It remains to be seen what this will consist of and the level of protection it will give to those who give public expression to their teachings of their faith," Patel said.
According to Phiri, Jeffery had given the assurance that the government would continue to uphold all the rights in the Constitution.
"He further emphasised that the intention of the bill is not to interfere with the exercise of the rights in section 15 or any other right enshrined in the Constitution, nor is it intended to regulate religious institutions," Phiri said.
The department is set to evaluate all comments that have been received to revise the bill where necessary.