These WhatsApp messages are being classified as hate speech — and can land you in jail

The Parliamentary portfolio committee on justice and correctional services has published the updated Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill for public comment.

According to the committee, the purpose of the Bill is to provide for the offences of hate crime and hate speech, and the prosecution of people who commit those offences.

The committee stated that this gives effect to the South African government’s obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights instruments concerning racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.

In the Bill’s definition of hate speech, it makes provision for the use of platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter.

It criminalises any person who intentionally distributes or makes available a data message which that person knows constitutes hate speech.

The communications system used must either be public, or accessible by or directed at a specific person who can be considered a victim of hate speech.

Hate speech is defined as publishing, propagating, or advocating anything that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to be harmful or to incite harm, or promote or propagate hatred on the following grounds:

  • Age
  • Albinism
  • Birth
  • Colour
  • Culture
  • Disability
  • Ethnic or social origin
  • Gender or gender identity
  • HIV status
  • Language
  • Nationality, migrant or refugee status
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex, which includes intersex
  • Sexual orientation

Harm is defined as any emotional, psychological, physical, social, or economic harm.

A hate crime is defined as an offence recognised under any law where the perpetrator was motivated by prejudice or intolerance based on any of the above characteristics.

These characteristics may apply to the victim, be perceived characteristics of the victim or their family member, or the victim’s association with, or support for, a group of persons who share the said characteristics.

Anyone convicted of hate speech faces a fine and a jail sentence of up to three years in the case of a first conviction.

For subsequent convictions, offenders face a fine and imprisonment of up to five years.


The proposed Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and the Hate Speech Bill is embedded below.

Parliament must receive comments on the Bill no later than 1 October 2021.

Stakeholders commenting on the Bill may indicate their interest in making a verbal presentation.

Submissions and enquiries must be directed to Mr V Ramaano — [email protected]


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These WhatsApp messages are being classified as hate speech — and can land you in jail