Reports of violence, intimidation, and hate speech directed against lesbians, Jews and whites during the protests at Wits University yesterday are distressing. While the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is sensitive to the myriad serious issues facing students in this country, it is never acceptable to target minority groups and inflame hatred. According to comments and photos on Twitter, a student claims: “They strangled me, choke-slammed me, threatened me. After, they said ‘queer bodies + feminists not welcome.” In another tweet, it was noted that students were ushered out of buildings by protestors shouting: “Whites must die! Jews must die!”
Early this morning, the South African Jewish community lost one of its most loved and respected members with the passing, at the age of 98, of Advocate Jules Browde, an eminent member of the Johannesburg Bar and a long-serving human rights activist and Jewish communal leader.
Over the past year, we have seen an escalation of hate speech being disseminated through social media. The authorities, to a large extent, have struggled to truly address this trend. It is for this reason that the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) supports the Portfolio Committee on Communications in its undertaking to amend the Film and Publications Act, 1996. However, the SAJBD is of the view that the extremely complex nature of the electronic media cannot be effectively regulated simply by broadening the already existing Film and Publications Act (FBA).
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has made a submission for this year’s Constitutional Review, focusing on issues of ‘hate speech’ and how the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) could be made more effective in addressing them.