Notes by Minister Jeff Radebe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, on the occasion of the panel discussion under the theme: “Imagine a World Without Hate!” Maroela Room, Sandton Sun Hotel, 25 August 2013
National President of the SA Jewish Board, Mr Zev Krengel;
The National Director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Ms Wendy Kahn
The Chief Rabbi, Dr Warren Goldstein;
Fellow Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Ambassador of the State of Israel, Mr Arthur Lenk;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Members of Parliament;
Chairperson of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies;
Distinguished Guests; and
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I would like to thank the South African Board of Deputies for inviting me to be part of the Conference today. The organizers have asked me to respond to specific questions relating to issues of the protection of the Jewish people under the Constitution, their access to human rights, crime against them and other related issues. In doing so, I am guided by the principle that human rights are indivisible and so is justice in general. In attending to the human rights that others deserve, in a way we are entrenching our own right and claim to the same principles. That is why human rights and justice is a matter that requires solidarity on both common and differential interests.
There is no doubt that humanity’s historical development across the world is littered with hatred of varying intensity, fueling in many instances blood conflicts and leaving behind a litany of injustices. For this reason it is imperative that we confront hatred as the root cause of many of the social, economic and political challenges that humanity has been seized with from time immemorial. I share your hope that in doing so we would have hit the nail on the head in as far as many of these historical conflicts are concerned and thereby help build a more humane world.
Allow me to first and foremost congratulate the Board for the two among many activities that it has engaged in which locates it within the peculiarities of South Africa. Some of them never set their foot on South African soil yet their ideas or ideologies had so much impact on our country’s struggle for a just order.
- Firstly, the posthumous Human Rights Award to Arthur Goldreich who imparted the military skills to the uMkhonto Wesizwe was an acknowledgement of the role that many people of Jewish descent played in our struggle. As convener of the Logistics Committee of the High Command, his ability to procure materiel for the nascent military wing was a dangerous and a self- less exercise.
- After escaping imprisonment, Goldreich continued to champion the cause for justice in South Africa from his native country Israel. In my analysis, Goldreich deserves equal mention with those leaders such as Che Guevarra who fought for global justice against imperialism and colonialism.
- It was in my remembrance of the role that was played by Goldreich that many other personalities of Jewish descent also came to mind who had huge impact on South Africa’s social, economic and political evolution.
- Jews are found across the political spectrum and to pretend that they were only a merchant and currently a capitalist class is not supported by scientific evidence. The very antithesis of capitalist thought came from Karl Marx, a Jew.
- When we look for entrepreneurs in the commercial, financial and industrial sectors within the South African context, the name of Barney Barnato among others come to mind.
- In the dock at the1956 Treason Trial, 14 of the 22 Whites who were summarily rounded up by apartheid security and faced trumped up charges were of Jewish origins.
- Five of the RivoniaTrialists, Denis Goldberg, Lionel Bernstein, Bob Hepple, Arthur Goldreich and Harold Wolpe were of Jewish descent. These are and deserve to be national heroes.
- The commander of the MK and later Minister of Housing was Joe Slovo. Ruth First was assassinated for the cause of the struggle for justice; Justice Albie Sachs lost his limbs because of this struggle to liberate our people.
- I could go on and on and the list is endless.
- Secondly, I would like to congratulate the Black-Jewish Entrepreneurs Network (BJEN) which has taken its first step towards sharing experiences and challenges between entrepreneurs of Jewish descent and Black entrepreneurs. The initiative will not only bring to fruition the suggestions made by the Deputy-President at the last Conference, but will also dispel the perception of Jewish insularity.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 brought about a new constitutional order in which the Constitution reigns supreme and as opposed to Parliament as it were under apartheid. The Constitution provides for a Bill of Rights which protects and entrenches certain fundamental rights, including the rights to equality, dignity and freedom of expression. The sum total of these Constitutional values inherently contradicts all forms of what may be termed hate crimes. Thus the dignity of any person is unconditional as it is accorded not on the basis of any status or social class but merely on being a human being. This discussion is thus very important as a window to look into how we can further consolidate our common efforts at building a society free from hatred as it were under apartheid and fascism.
Although as a country, South Africa has made enormous strides, particularly in eradicating formal inequalities and establishing flourishing democratic institutions, however, hate crimes have from time to time reared their ugly heads as they have done so in many other parts around the world.
It is unfortunate that in present day South Africa, we still have pockets of hate crimes by some few who refuse to embrace the changing times heralded by our Constitutional order. However, South Africa is today by far a better place than it were in 1994 and surely tomorrow holds the promise to be even better than today. Those examples in this regard that attempts to drag us back into the ugly past include the following:
- the Skierlik racially motivated killings of poor Black people by a White youth in North West Province;
- the case of the “Reitz Four” in the Free State University, Bloemfontein;
- the violent targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, for example the so-called “corrective rape” and murder of lesbians and transgender men, especially in townships;
- the unprecedented wave of xenophobic attacks and violence South Africa experienced in May 2008 resulting in the loss of more than 62 lives and damage to property, as well as displacement of migrants, and their displacement to emergency camps; and
- vandalism targeting religious institutions such as in October 2010, when several tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in Bloemfontein were defaced with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti.
Acts such as these that are motivated by social bias based on the identity (with reference to race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity) of the victim are forms of bias-motivated violence, more commonly referred to domestically and internationally as “hate crimes”. But like we did with fascism and apartheid, working together we will defeat these hate motivated crimes.
South African law does not specifically recognise a category of crimes committed against the victim on the basis of his or her inherent characteristics or membership of a particular group. It neither expressly allow for the aggravating circumstances to be considered when sentence is imposed. This is so despite the fact that such hate crimes are “message” crimes that sends fear to an entire community that identifies with the victim. As such, hate crimes, particularly when they do not meet an adequate response from the State, violate fundamental principles of equality and non-discrimination and can lead to social unrest. The State must thus be in the forefront to combat hate crime but its legal instruments can only succeed working in unison with broader society.
A related issue in the human rights sector, internationally and nationally, has been how best to address the phenomenon of incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence, or what may broadly be referred to as “hate speech”. Debate over this burning question has been fuelled by recent controversy surrounding what actually constitutes “hate speech”
Allow me to locate the relevance of the Jew in South Africa today by reference to their humiliation in the past. I am doing so not to open old wounds, but to be true to the concept of forgiving but not forgetting the history we come from.
- In the period during and immediately after the Second World War, anti-Semitic sentiments were routinely supported by the government of the day. The Government that came to power in 1948 consisted of some of the most rabid anti-Semitic politicians this country had ever produced. Unburdened by the confines of principle, Nazi supporting organizations such as the Ossewa Brandwag, the New Order and the Greyshirts mushroomed even when the blood of the Jews had not dried in the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Dachau and Auschwitz, to name but a few.
- Both the Quota Act of 1930 and the Aliens Act of1937 were aimed at the exclusion of the Jews from immigrating to South Africa or prohibiting them from ascending to certain reserved professional positions in the civil service. These Acts were enacted at the time that the Jews in Europe were desperately looking for destinations to emigrate to as a consequence of their persecution in Europe.
- The Hoggenheimeer the Jew cartoon that dominated pro-Afrikaner cartooning circles in the early 1940s caricatured a gluttonous Jew who was intent in maximizing profits at all costs. He is recognizable in a black dinner jacket, a pinstriped pair of trousers, an obese fellow whose body was encased in a waist coat with a gold chain. He is gouging himself at a table laden with food, and sipping expensive wine and puffing an inextinguishable cigar. Bonzaaier, the cartoonist, exploited the sentiment of commercial and industrial competitors that Jews represented foreign capital.
- This scapegoating was textbook repetition of Nazi anti-Semitism. Even though the causes of the failures of the Weimar Republic were known to have been resident in the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, it became easier for Hitler and his Nazis to find a scapegoat for the misfortunes of the post- First World War Germany in the Jews.
All these were wrong and the Constitutional democracy that was crafted after 1994 was aimed at eliminating the resurgence of these biases against all South Africans including the South Africans of Jewish descent.
The topic of hatred resonates with the subtheme of this session of the 47th Conference: the end of hatred. My additions of the falsehoods about the Jews in general is based on the received and observed reduction of the people of Jewish descent as self-centred, forgetful of their history, conspiring and skeptical of criticism, hoarders of wealth etc.
These falsehoods are not my creation. In its article, The International Jew: The World’s Problem, The Ford International Weekly of May 22, 1920 raises these issues in some countries more sharply. It states:
“In Russia he [the Jew] is charged with being the source of Bolshevism, an accusation which is serious or not according to the circle in which it is made… In Germany he is charged with being the cause of the Empire’s collapse…. In England he is charged with being the real world ruler.... In America it is pointed out to what extent the elder Jews of wealth and the younger Jews of ambition swarmed through the war organizations – principally those departments which dealt with the commercial and industrial business of war.
I wish to deal with the issue of euphemisms as pretext to hide the true intentions as it affected people of Jewish descent:
- The 1920 text that I quoted at the beginning of my talk referred to the International Jew as the World’s “Problem.” The invocation of the word “problem” invites calls for a solution. The “Final Solution” which was used as a euphemism by the Nazis to exterminate Jewish citizens could not have found a better berthing ground than the need to solve the so-called “Problem.”
- The euphemism of the slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” was used as a justification for the labour camps. Its South African equivalent was the creation of the myth (amongst many other myths) that Black people are generally lazy, and thus not worth of the freedom that would accrue from hard labour. Both of these exhortations were later proven to be false, and aimed at nothing but to hide the real intentions of the words behind them.
- The film “The Eternal Jew” which was released in 1940 under the pretext of “revealing the truth about Jews,” laid the foundation for the extermination of the Jews. It displayed blatant Nazi paranoia against the Jews, and proved that the so-called “realities” can be distorted to serve genocidal tendencies.
- Underpinning these euphemisms are further euphemisms which further alert us to the need for solutions. Thus the issue of the Jews as well as that of Blacks became a Question. Once a nationality is referred to as a question as in the Jewish “Question” or the Bantu “Question” the vultures of racial bigotry hover above.
These are examples that show hate crimes manifest itself in subtle forms and in various disguises before it becomes fully blown gross violation of human rights.
Draft Policy Framework:
In seeking to move away from South Africa’s past history of racism and racial discrimination, it is now necessary to examine the State’s response to hate crime, hate speech, and unfair discrimination in a manner that complies with the Constitution and which will advance the transformational promise of South Africa’s new Constitutional order. In other words are we doing enough to combat hate crimes so that we avoid repeat of the crimes of apartheid, holocaust and other historical genocides?
Given the South African context of 350 years of systematic and structural racism from colonialism through to apartheid, which caused immense damage and devastated the lives of generations of Black people, resolutely confronting racist hate speech and other forms of intolerance is a priority of our government.
In this context, the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development, conscious of the need to balance peoples’ rights to dignity with the freedom of expression and obligation to give effect to the relevant international law, has just finalised a draft Policy Framework on Combating Hate Crimes, Hate Speech and Unfair Discrimination (Policy Framework). The Policy Framework is a result of intense research into the development of legislation that will:
- introduce the concept of hate crime to South African criminal law;
- refine the concept of hate speech in a way that reflects South Africa’s commitment to high standards of free expression at the same time as combatting hate speech,;
- make hate speech a crime;
- possibly, make other forms of unfair discrimination a crime; and
- the development of measures to combat hate crime, hate speech and unfair discrimination.
The Policy Framework seeks to introduce a further category of newly-defined hate crimes in instances where the conduct would otherwise constitute an offence recognised at common law or by statute, and where there is evidence of a discriminatory motive on the basis of characteristics such as race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation and the like.
Latest progress on the Policy Framework
The Policy Framework has already gone through the Justice Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster departments to elicit comments and inputs. The Department is now in the process of finalising a Cabinet Memorandum with the aim to approach Cabinet, through my Ministry, for approval of the Policy Framework and for approval to commence with public participation process.
Gender based violence
I would be doing injustice to the struggle for gender equality on this occasion of the Women’s Month, noting that some of the sexual crimes committed against women are based on their gender. Of particular note is the continued senseless rape and murder of young women under the pretext of what has been defined as so called “corrective rape” of lesbians. Our Constitutional democracy guarantees freedom of choice and the dignity of all across race and gender. I must point out that rape or murder of lesbians and gays is not limited to South Africa as we recently got news of the murder of a young man in Jamaica on the basis that he was gay. The Lesbian and Gay movement is universal, highlighting the global extent of the challenge. Some women in Egypt had to dress up as men to avoid being raped even as they participated in the on-going protests against Egyptian leadership.
What this clearly indicate, as it happened under Hitler and as it happened in our townships, is that social, economic and political challenges often get vented against those deemed inferior or hated for one or other reasons. The Jews became the scape goat of the sufferings of Germans following their defeat in the First World War. Similarly the unemployment levels in townships are inextricably linked to their hatred of Pakistanis. This is not to justify hatred but merely to unravel the underlying motive forces that shape the emergence and perpetuation of hatred.
We have in earnest started with work to enact relevant legislative instruments that would make it punishable by law to commit acts of hatred against lesbians and gays.
Allow me to again welcome this discussion as important contribution to our evolving jurisprudence. Before any law can come into being, there must be a philosophical tenet to it, that gives rise to universal acclamation. There is no doubt that many crimes committed against communities on the basis of race, nationality, religion, gender and geographical location are indeed inspired by unqualified hatred of those given peoples. Apartheid was in a way a hate crime, when white people embarked on the ambitions of Afrikaner nationalism based on racial supremacy.
Similarly in 1994, as the entire world was gazed on the unfolding miraculous transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa, over 800 000 people were killed in genocide within a space of less than a year in the Great Lakes region in the Hutu – Tutsi conflict. I know that as Jews, you have indeed suffered a lot under Hitler and Mussolini’s fascism during the Second World War in what became the holocaust.
In doing so, we must be guided by former President Mandela’s assertion at the dock during the Rivonia Trial that he fought against both white and black domination, and made that his life mission for which he hoped to live but for which if necessary was also prepared to die. We therefore ask both South African Jews and all other communities in South Africa and beyond to consider it their mission to fight against the domination of the one group by any other.
What I am certain about is that the eradication of hate crimes must be linked to enacting a just order socially, economically and politically. The courts can only come in as final arbiter on the resolution of conflict where there is basic framework consistent with a society free from hate crimes. In other words, once we have succeeded with enacting relevant legislation, we must also go about educating our people about the values of the law because in many instances people are victimised in spite of the presence of the law. This is because hate crimes can lead to anarchy, as we have seen with Pakistanis becoming victims in some townships, when thugs utilise the ill-advised excuse that since these are foreigners they therefore have less rights in our country.
As I have indicated, many South African Jews who were prominent personalities such as the late Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson have immensely contributed to our jurisprudence. I take it that these debates are part of that contribution towards a better South Africa hence I must thank you for organising them as through dialogue we must continue to reach out to each other as a nation united in its diversity. We will succeed if we follow up our grand imagination of a world without hatred by the relevant logical steps through laws, frameworks and programmes to combat hatred and promote human solidarity.
As I conclude, let me come back to this session’s subtheme, Imagining A World Without Hate by resorting to my reliable tool – a quotation. The late John Lennon agreed with the sentiments of the theme:
Imagine no possessions/ I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger/A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people/ Sharing the World
You may say I am a dreamer, /But I am not the only one
I hope someday you will join us/And the world will leave as one.
Through solidarity we will be able to see the essence of humanity even in those in whom we share no culture, no language, no religion, no geographical space or whatever that many so chooses to utilise as defaults lines for hatred of the other. Through solidarity we will be able to rise above our own respective cocoons and share the world space with others and in our country we have coined this as unity in diversity. And through solidarity we will make reality of John Lennon’s inspirational song!I thank you!