*Note: Pursuant to our Press Release below, and on Monday 21st June 2021, the Department of Justice confirmed that the Department’s official e-mail address for receipt of submissions on the PEPUDA Amendment Bill, has been restored and is able to receive submissions again. Individuals / organisations can therefore continue to send their submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org before 30 June 2021.
18 June 2021
For immediate distribution
Democratic process derailed as PEPUDA Amendment Bill submissions overwhelm email limits
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) has written to the Department of Justice, calling the process for public comments on the PEPUDA Amendment Bill (the Bill) “fundamentally flawed” after it discovered that the published email address for the Department to receive submissions is no longer active. In a phone call with the Department, the explanation was given that they did not anticipate the volume of submissions they have already received.
In a subsequent letter to FOR SA, the Department said, “We are aware of the fact that the inbox of the relevant official is full. She has since yesterday taken other steps to reduce the emails in her inbox. As she is cleaning it, the comments keep on streaming in. Sorry for the inconvenience. We will be in a position on Monday to give another email address that can be used. We will make the address available on our website.”
“The Department cannot gazette one email address for submissions and then during the course of the process change the email address”, said Michael Swain, Executive Director of FOR SA. “This derails the entire democratic process of public participation.”
The Department initially gave 30 working days for public comment on the Bill and initially refused to grant a general extension until 30 June 2021, because “the Department needs to deal with this matter urgently”. It subsequently gave an undertaking to FOR SA that it would consider all submissions received until 30 June 2021.
FOR SA can confirm that through the DearSA on-line platform alone, 30,000 submissions have already been sent to the email address gazetted by the Department, many of which are opposing the proposed amendments. The change of email address at the very moment when submissions are pouring in, will inevitably result in the Department not receiving countless submissions.
The Bill has been widely criticised by multiple sectors of society for its radical expansion of the scope of the current Act. The wide redefinition of discrimination and equality, together with the removal of intention, will have unforeseen and far-reaching consequences whereby people may break this law without being aware of it or having any intention of so doing. It significantly extends legal liability, both for individuals and organisations and it further empowers Government to impose regulations and Codes of Practice to selectively enforce its provisions.
“PEPUDA is the pre-eminent piece of legislation and this Bill states that all other laws, policies and regulations will be overhauled to ensure compliance with the radical new standards it proposes,” said Swain. “The Department initially wanted to rush this through and now they are literally blocking public participation”.
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is a legal advocacy group mandated to protect and promote the constitutional rights of all South Africans, regardless of their specific religious or ideological beliefs. FOR SA is therefore ideologically neutral and non-partisan in terms of any interpretation of doctrine, faith or belief to the extent that it complies with the rule of law.
For more information, contact:
Executive Director, FOR SA
Cell: 072 270 1217