Media Statement by SAHRC. Recent statistics indicate that the majority of complaints received by the South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission) relate to infringements on the right to Equality, based on racial discrimination. During the 2015/2016 financial year, the Commission received 505 race-related complaints. This is indicative of the fact that despite the significant achievements over the past 23 years of democracy, deep inequalities and unfair discrimination remain a serious concern.
The advent of social media in South Africa has further complicated the country’s attempts to address discrimination. Recent highly publicised incidents, such as the Penny Sparrow, Justin van Vuuren, Chris Hart, Velaphi Khumalo and Matthew Theunissen matters, were all highlighted through social media, and point to the evolving challenges in addressing racism in contemporary South Africa.
The Commission does not identify ‘social media’ as a specific category in classifying human rights complaints it receives; however, social media is increasingly being cited as a ‘location’ in which race-based equality complaints arise. Recent incidents on social media platforms thus illustrate the urgent need for intervention and leadership in confronting discrimination and issues related to the right to equality – and by extension, racism.
Realising the urgent need for an intervention, the SAHRC will host a National Investigative Hearing on Racism and Social Media in South Africa on the 15th and 16th of February 2017. Click here to download the programme
The Hearing is intended to discuss allegations of racism that arise on social media, and build on the Commission’s approach to issues of racial discrimination and social cohesion.
The Commission’s National Hearing will bring together policy-makers, regulatory bodies, civil society organisations, researchers, academics, and social commentators to inform both the SAHRC and the general public on the complexities of addressing racism and racial discrimination in the context of social media.
The Hearing Panel will comprise of Chairperson of the SAHRC Adv. Bongani Majola, responsible for the Equality portfolio; Commissioner Angie Makwetla, who leads the SAHRC’s Children’s Rights portfolio; and former Constitutional Court Justice, Albie Sachs, who will assist the SAHRC as an external panelist.
The purpose of the National Hearing is to arrive at an understanding of what constitutes racism in the context of social media, who should be held accountable, and to what extent.
Statement as issued by the SAHRC on 14 January 2017