Johannesburg – Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa says he hopes the enforcement of tighter legislation will lessen incidents of discrimination such as racism and hate speech.
The Minister on Monday addressed a convention on nation building, social cohesion and reconciliation in Johannesburg. He said government has been looking at tightening South Africa’s laws to criminalise hate speech.
This comes in the wake of racial incidents that have played out in various settings, including national media.
“Racists amongst [us] should feel that they are not welcome. Their racist behaviour has to change because if they don’t change, something will have to force them to change.
“That’s why in the national action plan, we are looking at closing the gaps in terms of our regulations and laws in the country. Obviously we have to criminalise hate speech. You need to be clear as well what [hate speech] is because the Constitution is clear. But we need to move beyond the Constitution and deal with this practise so that we deter the would-be racists.
“…It is not good for the nation … to be held to ransom by a few racists amongst us,” Minister Mthethwa said.
He said his department has developed a national action plan aimed at combating racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia as well as related intolerances.
Retired Judge Yvonne Mokgoro said the social cohesion advocates will be engaging with communities on what they think their role is in nation building and promoting social cohesion.
The programme will see the advocates talking with different sectors including academia, the public and private sectors, and ordinary citizens.
“It is important that we form practical partnerships. We need to be systematic in the way we pursue nation building and social cohesion and reconciliation.
“We cannot continue to be reactionary and only start conversations when there are issues that flare up within our society. That will continue to happen but we must also be ready to respond to those issues as they come up,” Mokgoro said.
She said South Africans must be ready to respond to issues in unison in pursuit of the society that the Constitution envisions for everyone.
“We urge all sectors and levels of our society to answer to the call of [being] advocates of social cohesion when we engage in meetings,” said Mokgoro.
Minister Mthethwa was supported by Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and Ministerin the Presidency responsible for Women Susan Shabangu at the convention.
The convention on nation building, social cohesion and reconciliation follows a meeting held by Minister Mthethwa and social cohesion advocates on 21 January, which was aimed at charting a way forward for the development of national plans to build social cohesion, combat racism and eradicate discrimination in South Africa.