Countries like Germany that went through a painful history like ours, have enacted laws criminalizing both the denial of the Holocaust and the promotion of Nazi ideology. The aim of those laws was to prevent the resurrection of Nazism whether through speech, symbols, or public association. As a result, a number of the laws banning neo-Nazi messages also ban racism and hate speech. In 2005, the European Union considered enacting common rules banning or restricting the use of Nazi symbols and promotion of Nazi ideology, including Holocaust denial. However, the EU’s Executive Commission eventually recommended against such EU-wide legislation, noting that it would be “unwise” to seek a ban across the 25-nation bloc, citing the differing views in the countries involved. This is evident that countries that are list affected by racism or any form of discrimination, are less likely to take it seriously or enact strict laws against the racism practice.
From a country with hundreds of years of colonization and apartheid, it is mind boggling to say the list as to why issues pertaining racism were never addressed at CODESA. If they were addressed the details of the discussions will be an interesting read. With the country’s wide racism outcries, it is clear the public is yearning for stiffer repercussions against racist. Even though the apartheid regime was not militarily defeated, the world was against it, it was not a voluntary gesture to end apartheid. The regime was cornered, had no choice but to start negotiations. The struggle was about all racist prejudices, one would have assumed the victims of apartheid would have prioritize criminalizing all racial prejudices. Surely, freedom fighters were in a better space to argue for laws to criminalize racism. The democratic dispensation in 1994 did not signal the end of racism but the beginning of a new era. They hoped that the rainbow nation narrative will end all apartheid social ills such as racism. Those who were part of the CODESA negotiations and the current governing elite often scold those who are clever in “hindsight”. The law to criminalize racism is just been promulgated 22 years later, lets hope is not too late.
Our national anthem incorporates “Die Stem” which represented the apartheid ideology and formed part of its symbols. The meaning of the Die Stem never changed to those who sang it then and now. Those who argue that Die Stem was included for inclusiveness and re-conciliatory reasons misunderstood the meaning of Die Stem. People still parade the apartheid flag during certain games. During the national anthem rendition, some only sing the Die Stem part and proudly raise the old flag. The inclusion of the Die Stem promotes racism and the glorification of apartheid. A national anthem is supposed to represent symbolism, respect and loyalty towards one’s country. It signifies identity, serves as a source of pride and cultural significance for citizens of a particular country. Die Stem represented a crime against humanity system. Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrika and Die Stem van Suid-Afrika represents a combination of a special kind and bizarre. I agree with those who want the Die Stem removed from the national anthem. Instead of Die Stem, words like “We acknowledge that apartheid and colonization were crimes against humanity. We support all redress laws to address the wrongs of the past injustices. We are committed to building a non-discriminatory and prosperous South Africa”. Should have been included in Afrikaans instead of the apartheid national anthem that represented repression.
Off course there’s delicate balance required when criminalizing racism and other forms of discrimination. The right to free-speech must be balanced against the right not to be subjected to racism, xenophobia and so on. Countries like Germany and Austria in particular, come with laws that deal directly with the Holocaust because it affected them directly. Certainly, South Africa should have learnt something from that move by those countries. Criminalizing apartheid denialism seems to be against free speech. Equally, free speech is not a be all and end all, but must be balanced against the other rights of the people in their society. In South Africa there are people who openly down play the effects of apartheid unashamedly. Racism incidents are continuing daily and will not end until racism and apartheid denialism are criminalized by law.
By Sivodlo Silombo
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