The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) received 486 racism complaints for the 2016/2017 period and most centred around hate speech and the use of the k-word, among others.
Other complaints related to the use of the words “monkeys” or “baboons” to refer to people.
The national institution said on Tuesday that most of the complaints were reported in Gauteng. They stemmed from alleged contraventions of section nine of the Constitution and have been classified as equality complaints or violations of human dignity.
Spokesperson Gail Smith told News24 that 183 equality complaints were lodged in Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal, where there were 163 complaints. Thirty-six were reported in the Western Cape.
Among the Gauteng cases was the racist rant of former estate agent Vicki Momberg, who was sentenced to three years in prison, of which one year was suspended. Momberg used the k-word nearly 50 times during a racist tirade at a black police officer, who had been assisting her with a smash-and-grab incident in Johannesburg.
Smith said it remained to be seen whether criminal prosecution would deter racist utterances.
“Criminal laws and sentences for other crimes at first blush do not seem to deter these crimes,” she said.
“The commission hopes that the public understands that ‘crimen injuria’ is a criminal violation, meaning to injure someone’s dignity. Human dignity is a human right protected by the Constitution …
“While more people could consider going the criminal route through the criminal courts, it has to be understood that litigation is expensive and time consuming and thus not an option for the majority of people, especially in view of our already over-burdened court system.”
The commission’s mandate does not extend to criminal matters, which fall within the police’s jurisdiction, Smith explained.
Most of the matters which the SAHRC litigated in the Equality Court relate to the alleged use of hate speech. — News 24