Racism will soon be a crime punishable by law

Jacob Zuma claims that the ideology of racism remained firmly entrenched among some population groups.

Practising racism and racial intolerance will soon be an offence punishable by law in South Africa, according to President Zuma.

Addressing a small but very enthusiastic crowd at Victoria Grounds in King William’s Town, Eastern Cape, to mark Human Rights Day, Zuma said the National Action Plan focusing on racism and intolerance was currently being finalised by the department of justice.

“This plan will give further clarity and guidance to government and to the broader South African society on the fight against racism and related intolerances,” Zuma said.

He said the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill has recently been published.

“Once it becomes law, it will criminalise several forms of discrimination, including on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and nationality,” he said.

“This Bill is a perfect illustration of the seriousness with which we view hate crimes in our country.”

The president said the ideology of racism remained firmly entrenched among some population groups. He described the problem as “one of the most despicable human rights violations”.

“We are, however, encouraged at the level of outrage that these incidents usually draw. It proves that South Africans are generally not tolerant of racism,” he said.

In another significant announcement, Zuma said government was considering amending the law to provide funeral benefits for the elderly and savings for caregivers.

He said in order to provide further assistance, government was seeking to amend the Social Assistance Act to, among other things, enable it to provide funeral benefits to the elderly and be savings vehicles for caregivers of children. Presently, the system offers grants to 12 million children and 3.2 million older persons.

Zuma assured all grant beneficiaries they would receive their money at the end of the month. He addressed this matter in isiXhosa, saying: “To all the old-age people, particularly grannies and grandfathers who receive grants, children and disabled people, we urge you not to panic at all.

“You are going to get your money at the end of this month. The problems that existed have been solved.”

He paid tribute to Steve Biko, saying the gruesome and painful manner in which he was treated and his eventual merciless murder by the apartheid state was a gross human rights violation.

“In the memory of Steve Biko, let us promote the emancipation of the mind. He wanted black people to understand that they are equals with other racial groups and that they were equally deserving of dignity, respect, equality and a better life.”

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