Why precisely formulated laws regulating racist speech are needed
Legislature has remained inactive and left the problem to the courts without giving them the appropriate tools to resolve such disputes
Society is becoming increasingly polarised by racist speech, with fresh cases involving racial slurs occurring weekly. Kessie Nair recently used the “k-word” to label President Cyril Ramaphosa and has been charged with crimen iniuria. In August, Adam Catzavelos posted a Facebook video (strangely reminiscent of Penny Sparrow’s 2015 “beach monkey” post), using the “k-word” to describe the demographics of a Greek beach. Last week, a Hot91.9fm DJ, Sasha Martinengo, was fired for referring to Julius Malema as a monkey during a broadcast. Martinengo has apologised but has since tweeted: “I’m sorry … but … Anyone, irrespective of their race … who disrespects a woman is a monkey.” The EFF has retaliated. It will be pursuing a criminal case against Martinengo, because “racists belong in jail”. Most of those who use racist language face criminal charges or lose their jobs. They generally apologise. Some do so unreservedly; others add the “I’m not a racist” rider. But these apologies have litt...