South Africa launches plan to combat racism

The South African government on Monday launched a national action plan (NAP) to combat rising racism.

The NAP is an important tool to prevent and combat racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and other discriminatory conduct and forms of prejudice that South Africa has been experiencing, the government said.

The NAP will subsequently be deposited at the United Nations and will also be revised every five years, said John Harold Jeffery, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development.

The plan includes a targeted set of actions, interventions, measures and time frames, with a proposed governance structure for the implementation of the plan, as well as clear monitoring and evaluation arrangements and a reporting framework, according to Jeffery.

It sets out, in clear and practical ways, what the government, civil society, the media, academia, business, labor and sporting and religious bodies have to do to combat and prevent discrimination and prejudice.

The plan was launched as South Africa celebrated the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

South Africa’s NAP “further exemplifies our commitment to our CERD obligations,” Jeffery said.

Although apartheid ended about 25 years ago, the legacy of South Africa’s divided past, in the form of racism, intolerance and discrimination, continues to undermine the nation, said Jeffery.

Despite significant progress, too many people are victims of racial harassment and hate speech, because of the color of their skin, their ethnic origins, their sexual identity and expression, disability or religion, he said.

According to a recent report by the Hate Crimes Working Group, nationality, sexual orientation and religion are the top three grounds of hate crimes in South Africa.

The research reveals that 59 percent of hate crime victims are black or African.

Most of these victims are, however, non-South African nationals. Less than half (42 percent) of victims were born in South Africa. Twenty-eight percent originated from an East African country and 18 percent originated from a central African country.

“We can pass laws against hate crimes and hate speech, we can launch a detailed plan such as the NAP, but we also need to change attitudes and perceptions within communities and within societies,” Jeffery said.

The NAP will ensure that the concerns of individuals and groups encountering racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are more effectively addressed, he said.

Under the plan, a rapid response mechanism will be established to collate reported incidents of racism and other crimes of prejudice, the number of cases prosecuted, as well as the reasons for non-prosecution and the outcome of such cases prosecuted by the National Prosecuting Authority, according to Jeffery.

The plan provides mechanisms for documenting and monitoring incidents of racism and for ways to strengthen efforts to combat them, such as identifying legislation that needs to be amended or adopted to protect victims, said Jeffery.

Amid resurgence of racism-related crimes in the country, lawmakers have repeatedly stressed the urgent need to introduce a bill to criminalize racism to ensure the building of an inclusive society.

South Africa’s Parliament has been working on legislation to criminalize racism. The process has entered the stage of inviting public input into the bill.