A high-ranking official in South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party issued an official statement blaming some in the country’s white minority for continued racial tension and called for laws that will put limits on speech and acts deemed racist.
The statement, released Monday by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip Phumelele Stone Sizani, calls for laws that will “criminalize any act that perpetuates racism or glorifies apartheid.” Sizani claims that the “increasing trivialization of racism” and “glorification of apartheid” have become so severe that new, specific legislation is required to counter them. According to Sizani, his party will investigate ways to create new laws or amend existing ones so that speech deemed racist is “criminalized and punishable by imprisonmnent [sic].”
Sizani claims that “despite the great efforts by the Black majority to embrace reconciliation and forgiveness rather than retribution… suffered under apartheid and colonialism” the white minority has failed to do the same, instead exacerbating racial conflicts. He claims that despite the end of the apartheid over two decades ago, the white population has “engage[d] in acts of persecutions and torments driven by racial bigotry.”
South Africa was once governed by a legal system of racial division that separated the country’s black majority and white minority. From 1948 to 1994, the white minority maintained control of government in the country and limited many of the rights of black citizens, ranging from the stripping of voting rights to placing restrictions on where black people could live. Apartheid came to an end in 1994 when the black majority was granted universal suffrage. The ANC was elected to a 62.65 percent majority in South Africa’s parliament, leading to Nelson Mandela’s swearing-in as president. The ANC has been in control of South African politics ever since.
In his statement, Sizani targets political opponents from the Democratic Alliance party for “overt racism and public promotion of apartheid.” Additionally, he calls South African journalist Paul Kirk a “racist and apartheid apologist.” Kirk sparked controversy last year for his comments on Facebook regarding former Apartheid era President and Prime Minister P.W. Botha.
Sizani defends his calls for the new laws, claiming: “elsewhere glorification of Nazism and denial of Holocaust is a crime and perpetrators are tried and sentenced to a prison term.” If the ANC follows through, South Africa would join the U.K., Netherlands, France and several other countries that have criminalized hate and racist speech.
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