Courts bracing for flood of hate crimes cases

Having too many laws is incorrect in dealing with the same conduct, it should be put into one Act which covers all hate crimes, law experts suggest.

With the first person being sentenced to jail in South African history for using the appalling k-word – it is probable more cases of hate speech and hate crimes will flood the courts.

With the massive precedent that the effective two-year jail term handed to Vicki Momberg in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court sets, coupled with the imminent enactment of the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, there is sure to be an increase in cases of this nature.

In effect, Momberg, should she lose on appeal, will spend 15 days in prison for each of the 48 times she had used the k-word.

What the sentence showed, according to legal experts, is that racism in South Africa, given its tumultuous past, will not be tolerated, and with Momberg being made a direct example of, more and more South Africans in similar circumstances will now flock to the courts.

“More criminal cases are going to be opened. I think the Equality Court is going to be flooded more than ever before,” criminal law expert Cliff Alexander said. “I think we are going to see more criminal prosecutions stemming from the use of racial terms. People are going to be flocking to the police stations.”

He said the courts would in all likelihood determine if cases can be resolved through a defender showing remorse.

“The Equality Court is quite busy already. It’s a fantastic institution. But does it really have teeth?”

People in hate crime situations will also look to a middle ground of a capital settlement, he added.

“I think that is also what one is going to see a lot of. People are going to be paying to make these things go away. It is going to be a case where ‘if you don’t give me R100, then I am going to lay the charge against you’.”

From a legal standpoint, the hate crimes bill is welcomed, but does come with a grey area, Alexander said.

“I think the bill is long, long, overdue. There are unfortunately elements on both sides of the divide [with regards] to discriminatory speech. It cuts both ways. It should have been implemented and enacted a long time ago.

“However, the unfortunate aspect about it, is that it is subject to abuse. Think about it … if you go to a restaurant and you don’t like the service the waiter gives you and you reprimand him about it, he could say you called him something derogatory along racial lines.

“He could be a Chinese person. It doesn’t have to be a black person – it’s going to come down to a he said, she said.

“It is exactly the same as the Sexual Offences Bill. If you falsely lay a charge against someone, you open yourself up to criminal prosecution, but it’s got to be proven once again. It is open to abuse like any legislation. That is my only concern.”

Legal expert William Booth pointed to other laws which could be used in similar circumstances – leading to confusion.

“Having too many laws is incorrect in dealing with the same conduct. It becomes a bit confusing to where matters will go.

“It may be too much of the same thing. It should be looked at, and put into one Act which covers everything. Put everything in a unified piece of legislation.

“What I can’t fathom is why are there so many of these cases? One wonders why people have to resort to racial comments.”


Sentence is evidence of double standards, says AfriForum

  • Civil Rights organisation AfriForum agree that Vicki Momberg’s racist rant deserves condemnation, but believe her sentence is evidence of double standards.
  • The organisation released a statement yesterday, saying AfriForum considers the two-year prison sentence imposed on Momberg as a reaffirmation of the double standards in South Africa, “especially regarding race”.
  • AfriForum compared Momberg’s racist rant against a black police officer to that of an officer in the South African National Defence Force, who allegedly said that white people’s eyes and tongues must be stabbed out, yet only received a slap on the wrist.
  • They also questioned why there has been no progress on 113 criminal cases they have submitted in the past year, involving public incitement to “white genocide”.
  • AfriForum Deputy CEO, Ernst Roets, said in the statement the inconsistency being applied regarding minorities has reached a level of absurdity. – Citizen reporter

For more news your way, follow The Citizen on Facebook and Twitter.

Read more on these topics

Crime racism

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits