Today's Labour News

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gavel thumb100 Dr Joanna Botha, who lecturers in the law faculty at Nelson Mandela University, writes that society is becoming increasingly polarised by racist speech, with fresh cases involving racial slurs occurring weekly.  

Most of those who use racist language face criminal charges or lose their jobs.  They generally apologise, but these apologies have little impact once the damage has been done.  Widespread condemnation has been witnessed which is indicative of a society maturing and beginning to appreciate the harm caused by racist speech.  But, a legal response is also required.  At the same time, the overregulation of racist speech must not erode the guarantee to freedom of expression.  The Constitutional Court recently addressed two incidents where it condemned racism and undertook to eliminate this scourge.  The first case involved the term “swart man”.  The other case concerned the dismissal of workers for singing struggle songs during a strike.  But these cases demonstrated the limited ambit in which the courts operate when confronted with racist speech.  Courts must resolve disputes within the boundaries of the facts before them.  It isn’t the courts’ role to make laws setting the appropriate behavioural standards. The legislature must recognise that SA doesn’t have an appropriate legal mechanism to regulate racist slurs and therefore it should initiate legal reform.  It is argued by Botha that precisely formulated laws regulating racist speech are needed to create certainty and to inform us of the required behavioural standard and the consequences of infringement.

  • Read this well thought-out article in full at BusinessLive

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