The “Hate Speech” Bill Can Only Promote Division and Conflict

2017-02-08 18:16

The nauseating refrain from the political left about “prosecuting racism” (the “Hate Speech Bill’) does our democratic institutions and ambitions of tolerance and nation building grave harm. In a multicultural nation confronting vital socio-economic challenges, promoting inclusivity and team work should attract all of our attention. We should not be diverted by prickly attention seeking outbursts of trumped up indignation highlighting our differences, simply because we are - when all is said and done - a nation of hugely divergent cultures, languages, races and beliefs - and arguably more so than any other nation on Earth!

In such an environment there is always going to be some friction, argy bargy and a need for give and take; getting accustomed to our differences is the big challenge. So what is the point of faking attitudes and contriving rules of public correctitude when we are all different and know it?

What is to hide? Our diversity calls for robust debate and honest exchanges. Else how can we get to understand each other?

For some politicians, the low hanging populist fruit of targeting “racism” (especially when aided and abetted via social media and driven by the political insecurities of a withering ANC power base) will always be tempting. That is because those in office have precious little left to offer and want to retain influence and visibility (as all politicians seem to) at any cost.

So the racism mantra comes in very handy for diverting attention from real issues.

Defining Racism

What defines racism for you might be different from what defines it for me; we all have our own take. As a result much of what is condemned as racist in the national debate is anything but and constitutes contrived “post truths”. Specious accusations are often levelled at people who point out facts or make simple, valid observations – as in the instance of the Chris Hart/ Standard Bank furor in early 2016. In that example the bank discredited itself by bending to political coercion in the most unprincipled and disgraceful way.

Because we each have our own interpretations and characterization of the term, rational debate on the topic of racism is close to impossible. Nonetheless some observations are undeniable. A good place to find examples of racism and track its insidious permeation down into our society is to start at the very top.

A president toting toy guns aimed at imaginary whites at public gatherings, discrediting the advent of western civilization in the African sub continent and belittling so called “clever blacks” makes the point clearly enough. The die is cast. And it gets worse.

From Zuma’s cue, his political nemesis Julius Malema went one further by generously undertaking to “not yet” call for the slaughter of whites. And one Velaphi Khumalo called in early 2016 “for whites to be ‘hacked and killed like Jews’ and for their children to be ‘used as garden fertiliser’.

To the best of my knowledge government took no punitive action against this man. And yet – astonishingly – the very existence of black racism is vehemently disputed by many.

That there is hatred in some quarters is clear – and it comes from both sides.

When whites place people in coffins to scare the hell out of them or beat them up because they are in some way intimidated and reviled by them, they are plainly behaving brutally, irrationally and inhumanely. Such behavior needs to be addressed under the rule of law. But Penny Sparrow’s outburst (dirty beaches, “monkeys” remember?) was hardly racist in nature - as were Malema’s or Khumalo’s.

Unlike them, she was just naïve and stupid - not of vocal murderous intent.

In such instances, our labyrinth of laws – when they get implemented - should be adequate. Thus to write further provisions into law would be futile. In fact a number of provisions of the draft legislation in the pipeline contradict our very constitution and could in practice give rise to a de facto preferential race doctrine which would seriously erode democratic principles and diminish key civil liberties.

Certain provisions of freedom of speech and expression laws – even the freedom to depict absurdities in cartoons or in comedy – could become vulnerable. It could thus have the effect of further sanctioning and fostering racism by one race at the expense of another. This trend is already discernible through government connivance at inflammatory black racist utterances and the lack of prosecutions.

And yet – in the midst of this - some contend that racism is an exclusively white predilection.

Plainly there is racism on both sides of the fence, but the causes and origins differ dramatically. Let us try to understand the underlying issues, and so assess the risks and limitations of possible legislation.

Black Racism?

Black antipathy towards whites is understandable from a historical perspective.

However, in the modern context such attitudes ignore important realities and common sense, causing damage to black people themselves.

There is understandable resentment as many in our indigenous population have become better educated and disillusioned with their economic trajectory - brought on by dishonest and corrupt public governance of their own choosing. They has expected better.

So they look for reasons elsewhere, because blaming the ruling party is not an option (the ANC is not just a political party but an articulated value system).

At this point culpability moves into the realm of history – showing our “democracy” to be little more than a delusional theocracy with neither diagnostic acumen nor logic and common sense to draw on. And because colonialism brought with it socio political and economic paradigms that upset the traditional apple cart, why not attribute responsibility the colonialists?

Following this line of reasoning, black racism stands a chance of gaining “legitimacy”: that logic is absent and potential outcomes for black people are negative is paid no heed.

In truth, colonialism was an extractive economic and absolutist political system to fulfill the domestic mercantile ambitions of the colonial powers. Because of the socio economic asymmetries of the time between regions of the world (in the 15th and 16th centuries), Europeans were able to colonize much of Africa, Asia and elsewhere with impunity for economic gain.

This is an oft repeated and universal pattern in human history. More advanced, better developed and /or institutionally stronger nations expand at the expense of weaker, less advanced societies. Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Huns and the Vikings are some examples of acquisitive civilisations preying on others.

And it invariably had to do with what was going on back home.

For example - had the Scandinavian custom of primogeniture (bequeathing ownership of farming land to the chief’s eldest son without anything for other males) not existed, thereby creating a restless class of young warrior-adventurers, it is unlikely that parts of Western Europe, Iceland, Greenland and the Russian interior would have been subjugated. The Vikings thus played a key role in shaping modern Europe.

Without international laws, global norms and “human rights” on the table, mankind’s primordial urge to breach new horizons, conquer others and explore could go unchecked.

This happened in Africa too as Niger-Congo speaking people migrated east and south from central-west Africa into the African sub continent, displacing indigenous San and Khoi peoples who retreated mainly into southern Africa’s arid and less hospitable interior.

The lesson is clear. Displacement by the strong of those weaker or less developed is an evolutionary reality.

Modern morality chafes against this truth but there is nothing to be done about it. Ethics have never written history. What is invariably ignored is the extent to which previously colonised regions of the world have drawn advantage from their experience - but this depends entirely on the attitudes and cultural predispositions of the indigenous population.

We might thus well ask if is it right to condemn the march of mankind’s socio economic evolution – along with all its attendant brutality and paternalistic absolutism - as racist - or perhaps even worse.

Might it not be more appropriate to embrace it as a chapter in mankind’s evolution - giving rise to new beginnings and expanding horizons?

White Racism?

The cause of white racism towards blacks is very different.

Clearly there was no hegemonic coercion of whites, as applied to blacks, although there were wars and plenty of conflict as colonists and settlers encroached. So the domination of blacks over whites was not an issue.

There were on the other hand socio-economic asymmetries from the get-go when white settlers first arrived on African shores. To this day, these have not been eliminated even with innovations in commercial agriculture; industrialisation; urbanization; mining and other modern economic activities. Thus the causes of sustained asymmetry have been both cultural and coercive, with whites maintaining extractive influence over indigenous populations.

Whilst this was exploitative, it also typified an era in which almost the entire world was ruled according to extractive and absolutist norms. Much of it still is.

Socio economic norms only started to change in the West in the 17th century with the adoption of democratic and free market values in the West and the advent of the Industrial Revolution,but South Africa’s extractive paradigm continued into the late 20th century, when a new constitution was written.

Nevertheless, true economic liberation remains elusive, with the nation’s new elite – through majoritarian rule and alliances with the far left adopting the absolutist and extractive role once occupied by the white minority.

Examples of such dysfunctional transformations are not uncommon – and are to be found in the book “Why Nations Fail” by Darron Acemoglu and James A Robinson. Thus instead of creating an inclusive and prosperous political economy as envisaged by free markets and based on personal merit, the new absolutists have chosen to control the levers of power as far as they are able and feed their own interests. This continues to happen - all  made so much worse by a pervasive incompetence and disinterest in directing the South African state sustainably and competently. And so the big players – political elites; trade unions, government owned enterprises and a corrupt class that awards and benefits from government tenders have come to dominate South African economic activity - invariably negatively - and strangle the productive, free enterprise economy.

And underpinning this process of confiscation and extraction in their favour, the elite have used the race mantra in many shapes and forms. Whether dubbed "BEE", affirmative action, quotas, "transformation" or "equity transfers" the intention has been to consistently extract at the expense of (mainly) the whites for the enrichment of a black nouveau riche class. Our vice president is a prime example.

It can validly be argued that the ruling party’s hold on power to date has been bankrolled by the accumulated institutional capital inherited in 1994 – much of which has been dissipated and laid to waste under its watch. Imploding parastatals, poor government at all levels, inept management of national resources and rampant corruption all make this point.

In this process the greatest cost has been to the poor - from whom economic growth and opportunities for employment have been denied.

And that is why white racism is alive and well - and growing rather than diminishing. Neither “Hate Speech” bills nor any other legislative remedies can address those underlying issues. If they are not fixed, they will fester.

Dumb laws can only make them worse and ensure that racial polarization intensifies.

News24 Voices Terms & Conditions


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.