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Govt working on new bill which ensures racists are criminally charged

The bill could ensure offenders found guilty of hate speech or racist behaviour are criminally charged.

FILE. Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffrey says the original intention of the bill was not to criminalise hate speech and racist behaviour, but this will have to be revisited in light of recent debates. Picture: Saps

JOHANNESBURG - The Justice Department has confirmed it's working on a bill which could ensure that offenders found guilty of hate speech or racist behaviour are criminally charged.

This follows a week in which at least three people have faced criminal charges and sparked outrage after posting racist remarks on social networks.

During his 8 January statement at the African National Congress (ANC)'s 104th birthday celebrations at the weekend, President Jacob Zuma also lashed out at racists saying there's no place for them - but insisted that South Africa is not a racist country.

Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffrey says the original intention of the bill was not to criminalise hate speech and racist behaviour, but this will have to be revisited in light of recent debates.

"That might delay the bill slightly but this seems to be a growing consensus in South Africa, that we do need legislation on racism and outlawing racism."

He says the department will also have to revisit penalties for racism, including jail time.

"Obviously a crime has penalties as punishment. The punishment is linked to the severity of the crime and there's a range of penalties that can be imposed."

Last week the ANC in Parliament also said it was considering following the example of German law criminalising Nazism and holocaust denial.