An all too familiar atmosphere of pretence pervades the inexorable progress of the Prevention & Combating of Hate Crimes & Hate Speech Bill through the legislative process, sharpened somewhat by recent evidence of the state’s inability — even unwillingness, perhaps — to do much in the way of protecting citizens’ rights.

Of course, if a state is keen to step in and act against the hateful, an atmosphere of pretence might well be preferable to an atmosphere of single-minded determination. Better by far — as colleague Sara Gon, director of the Free Speech Union of SA (a unit of the Institute of Race Relations), argued at the weekend — is a social and political environment in which the law imposes “the least possible limitations on free speech”. ..

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