The issue of hate speech has become a hot topic of conversation after Vicki Momberg became the first person in South Africa to be imprisoned for her racist rant.
It has been brought up so much that National Government is in the process of ushering in a new bill titled ‘The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill’.
“It is against this backdrop that the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill (‘‘the Bill’’) has its origins. The Bill is intended to address frequently occurring and sometimes violent conduct of persons who are motivated by clear and defined prejudices,” the bill reads on its origins.
Nicholas Preston, Director of Employment Practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, told BusinessTech that this new bill is likely not just to have an effect on individuals, but businesses as a whole.
Once adopted, the bill may aim to formally criminalise common law position surrounding hate crimes and speech. Hate speech is common in the work place, and if the bill is passed, will give employees a greater chance of disciplinary and civil action, but now also criminal prosecution.
The proposed bill is aimed at providing wide protection against any communication which an individual or group of persons may find threatening, abusive or insulting.
The penalties for contravening the bill may include a fine or imprisonment. It is recommended that employers take positive steps to educate employees to avoid any such instances and negative publicity.
Proactive steps to take within the business include updating existing disciplinary codes and grievance procedures, as well as social media procedures and behaviour that are acceptable in the office space.
The bill is currently being introduced into the National Assembly and will be followed by public invitations for submissions and comment.