‘Proposed Hate Speech Bill a laughing matter’

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November 1, 2016
‘Proposed Hate Speech Bill a laughing matter’

Comedians Yaaseen Barnes, Siv Ngesi and Kurt Schoonraad

Comedians min gespin by minister’s prevention of hate speech proposal.

The Cape Town comedians say while a new proposed law could get them arrested for telling onbeskofte jokes, it won’t take the punch out of their punchlines.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha this week announced the draft of the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill has been released for public comment.

The proposed new law aims to criminalise all forms of hate speech, racism and xenophobia, with stiff penalties of up to 10 years in jail for convicted offenders.

There were fears that the bill was too broad and restrictive with no loopholes for comic relief, but Masutha says the bill is necessary to curb rampant prejudice and intolerance, on especially the internet.

But comedians Yaaseen Barnes, Kurt Schoonraad and Siv Ngesi say this bill is definitely a laughing matter.

Yaaseen says: “I don’t think any of the comedians are taking this serious, our job is to not take things serious.”

Kurt, who is also the founder and owner of the Cape Town Comedy Club, says the bill will definitely have positive spin-offs.

“Who do you put in charge of calling where the line is? Do you get a panel of judges like Idols? It’s like getting a jury of peers together and they must decide if you’re a d**s or not,” Kurt says.

“If I get arrested, it will make my DVD sell because everyone would want to know what the hell I said there, so tell them maybe they should arrest me and it will be good for my shows!”

Siv says the law can first bow to him and “kiss my a**” and I will take the 10 years gladly.”

He adds: “They must charge the president first [before criminalising comedy].”

However, the comedians say telling jokes is one way of creating dialogue about serious issues plaguing the nation, “like President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas”.

“Who will decide what is hate speech and freedom of speech?” they ask.

Minister Masutha says hate crimes fuelled by unlawful bias, prejudice and intolerance has become a big problem in the South African media.

“Although nationality, gender identity, HIV status, albinism, intersex and occupation or trade are not expressly mentioned in section 9 (3) of our Constitution, it has been argued that they should be included in the Bill because of the hate crimes that have been committed on the basis of these grounds,” he adds.

* Written, faxed and emailed comment on the bill closes on December 1, 2016.Details are available on www.justice.gov.za.

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