The Board featured prominently in the media last week, with our statement condemning the racially-motivated ‘coffin’ assault in Mpumalanga receiving wide coverage. Alana Baranov, who represents us on the steering committee of the Hate Crimes Working Group, was interviewed on several radio news programmes, while opinion pieces on the subject of combating racism and prejudice (including antisemitism) by David Saks and Charisse Zeifert, appeared in the Sunday Tribune and Sowetan respectively.
By contributing the voice of our Jewish community to broader debates, we participate in issues of national importance. This year, one of the most pressing of these issues has been the escalating problem of racially-charged antagonism, something that is becoming more evident at all levels of our society, including in politics. Recapturing the spirit of tolerance, understanding and reconciliation with which South Africa’s brave new world of non-racial democracy was launched 22 years ago has never been more vital. Our community, whether as individuals or through communal organisations must do everything we can to reignite that world.
When a criminal act is motivated, wholly or in part, by prejudice or intolerance, it adds a significant dimension of severity to the offence. ‘Corrective rape’ against lesbians, for example, combines a brutal physical assault with an attack on the very identity and self-worth of the victim, not to mention that of the LBGT community in general. In recognition of this, a new Hate Crimes Bill has been gazetted and will be coming up before Parliament early next year. The Board is currently finalising its submission on the Bill, in which we will bring our particular concerns as a Jewish community together with our thoughts and recommendation concerning how to tackle such issues as hate speech (particularly online) and how to implement more effectively the anti-discrimination legislation currently on the statute book.