Hate Crimes and Speech Bill contradicts the constitution



South Africa has been ravaged by colonialism, apartheid and white supremacy for centuries. Universities and higher education were tools of white supremacy and exclusion during colonial and apartheid times, with universities and academics propagating racist and fanatic ideas and Eurocentric hegemony.

Sketch Draft Law on the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Speech, introduced in 2018, proposes to enable academics, academics and researchers in South Africa to promote racism and bigotry relentlessly. The bill describes hate speech as “a clear intention to… promote or propagate hatred” based on race, gender, sexual orientation or other differences. The bill states that this definition – and its associated consequences – will not apply “if done in good faith as part of an engagement in … any academic or scientific investigation”.

As stated in the bill, Article 16 of the South African constitution protects the right to freedom of expression. This includes “academic freedom and the freedom of scientific research”. However, article 16 of the constitution adds that the right to freedom of expression does not extend to “the call to hatred based on race, ethnicity, sex or religion and which constitutes an incitement to harm ”.

If the constitution does not grant researchers and academics the right to promote or propagate hatred based on race, sex, religion, ethnicity or anything else through academic work or engagement and academics, why does the hate crime and speech bill contradict the constitution and propose to protect academics and academics who propagate racist and fanatic ideas?

This exception will contribute to the abuse of academic freedom by some in academia in order to propagate hatred, prejudice, bigotry or the oppressive and racialized status quo.

Academic freedom cannot be used as an excuse to maintain coloniality, epistemic violence, and white supremacy. Racist and fanatical ideas have nowhere to be found in academic, scientific and academic engagement, and especially in a country like South Africa, where racism and white supremacy have left deep scars and inequalities. and structural injustices.

During colonialism and apartheid, the education system was “inherently ethnocentric and racist“in that he approached black people through a” deficit model “that saw them as backward, uncivilized, and in need of white protection and saving.

While promoting Western ideas and assumptions as “universal”, the colonizers destroyed and “delegitimized other ways of knowing as savage, superstitious and primitive ”. Colonial and apartheid regimes, aided by South African universities and much of the white universities, ensured that blacks received for centuries a “pure parody of education, designed to prepare black children for a perpetual serfdom as servants of their high and powerful white bosses and mistresses, ”as Desmond Tutu pointed out in his book, No future without forgiveness.

Long after the end of apartheid, many South African scholars continue to argue that Western knowledge systems “”constitute the only basis for higher forms of thought ”. At the same time, they consider ideas, theories and knowledge “produced from social / historical experiences and worldviews of [the African continent and] the Global South… as inferior and not forming part of the canon of thought ”.

White supremacy, Eurocentric hegemony and the epistemic violence propagated in South African universities are rooted in the racialized logic that considers people outside the Western and colonial world, and in particular blacks on the African continent and in the Diaspora. , like uncivilized and inferior human beings. .

As underlined by the Kenyan writer NgÅ©gÄ© wa Thiong’o, the colonial and apartheid control of education aimed to establish “the psychic domination of the colonizer and the psychic submission of the colonized”. Its epistemological paradigms, imposed by colonial racist oppression and apartheid and “established by epistemicide”, continue to dominate university curricula and reflect on what constitutes knowledge.

Often times, the notion of academic freedom allows academia to continue with “business as usual” and propagate oppressive ideas, rhetoric and lies – and maintain the white agenda almost entirely.

It is nothing but the racism that follows centuries of white supremacist assumptions that whites are superior and blacks inferior. It is puzzling that in a society that continues to grapple with structural inequalities and injustices rooted in colonialism, apartheid and white supremacy, the bill seeks to enable the promotion and spread of the hate when done as part of an academic investigation.

What the Hate Crimes and Speech Bill proposes will legalize and allow racism and fanaticism as long as racists and fanatics can show that they are promoting and spreading hate speech “in good faith” (whatever that means). means) and as part of their academic research or engagement.

This comes at a time when South African universities should work hard to dismantle Eurocentric hegemony in higher education in order to radically rethinking the “legacy stories and cadres ”rooted in the ideas, beliefs and colonial conquest of white supremacy.

Farhana Sultana points out that academic freedom is “founded on the principles of scientific rigor, which involves engaging in theories and methodologies and demonstrating the competence of the ideas that have been debated ”.

Racism, on the other hand, is based on the long discredited and harmful ideas, beliefs and worldviews of white supremacy. Yet the hate crime and speech bill proposes to protect white supremacists, racists and other fanatics in academia.

Freedom of speech and expression, including academic freedom, can never be unconditional. The right to freedom of speech and expression ends – or should end – when someone else’s human dignity is violated by expressing hateful ideas. Eusebius McKaiser notes that the judgment of “moral violence of epistemic erasure which is inflicted daily on society in the South African academy under the guise of academic freedom ”must be a prerogative of university administrations.

One of the most important aspects of academic freedom today should be the “freedom to challenge racist ideas oppressive policies and practices through critical debate and dialogue ”, instead of defending the racist and oppressive knowledge systems of colonization and apartheid and protecting their promoters.

Since the mission of universities and academics is to create new knowledge, it is of paramount importance to have a “multiplicity of voices, including those of intellectual dissidents” in higher education institutions, such as underlined by Adam Habib, Seán Morrow and Kristina Bentley. This allows for critical engagement and contestation of ideas in the quest for new paradigms, ideas, theories and knowledge.

However, while the freedom to challenge ideas is of the utmost importance to academics, researchers, and universities, white supremacy, racism, and other forms of bigotry have no place in the institutions of higher education and in academic books and journals.

Those who continue to maintain coloniality, Eurocentric hegemony and white supremacy cannot be considered mere “intellectual dissidents”. The spread of colonial and apartheid lies and white supremacist ideas in South Africa (and elsewhere) cannot be part of “ideological pluralism that promotes critical engagement ”.

These ideas are an integral part of oppressive white supremacist systems and horrific crimes against humanity. Those who continue to vomit their racist ideas cannot be protected by the notion of academic freedom or by the Hate Crime and Speech Bill. There must be a line somewhere.

This is an edited version of an article first published by Africa is a country. Savo Heleto writes in his personal capacity and has submitted this article as a commentary on the Prevention and Combating Hate Crime and Hate Speech Bill to the South African Parliament.


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