When the deadline for comments on the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill closed on 31 January 2017, the Department of Justice had received more than 76,000 submissions! The FOR SA team met for an hour with the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development (John Jeffery MP) to share our concerns regarding the Bill with him and to familiarise ourselves with the process going forward. On this occasion, the Minister said that he would invite FOR SA to participate in the redraft of the Bill, which he acknowledged (at least in so far as the hate speech provisions are concerned) was over-broad and would have to be redrafted. This acknowledgment was repeated during the meeting with religious leaders at the FOR SA “Road Show” in Cape Town (as well as at a subsequent meeting in East London), where the Minister explained the objectives of the Bill and assured religious leaders that they should have the freedom to preach the Scriptures without fear of adverse consequences.
The Minister explained that the process going forward will be for the Department of Justice to work through the submissions and make the amendments that they think are necessary. Once completed, they will then present the Bill to Cabinet. If Cabinet is happy, the Bill will be introduced in Parliament, who will then give permission for the Bill to be published in the Government Gazette.
*Important note: At this stage, there will be another opportunity for the public to make written submissions to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee. (According to the Minister, the next round of input/consultation on the Bill is only likely to take place in the 2nd half of the year.) There will also be an opportunity for those who have made “substantial submissions” to make verbal representations with regard to the Bill at the hearings that will follow thereafter.
Once the Portfolio Committee is satisfied with the Bill, they will introduce it to the National Assembly (NA) who will then debate it. If the NA is happy, the Bill will be referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), who will also debate the Bill. Depending on their view, they may be an additional public consultation process and further amendments. If no amendments are made, the Bill will be returned to the President for signature.
Rest assured that we remain vigilant and in contact with the Deputy Minister, with regard to these matters which are of the utmost importance to us, and will immediately advise you of any developments.
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Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is dedicated to protecting and preserving the freedoms and rights that the South African Constitution has granted to the faith community. You can help FOR SA protect our freedom by:
- Praying for us as we defend this precious freedom before government and courts of law;
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- Informing us, should you become aware of any case in which religious freedom is threatened;
- Making a financial contribution to FOR SA at https://forsa.org.za/donate/ As a non-profit organisation, we are entirely dependent upon God’s grace for finances. Your generosity will help make a significant difference as we work to fulfil our mission to keep the Gospel free by advocating for religious freedom. We appreciate every gift, big or small!