The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)’s two-day national investigative hearing ended on Thursday, targeting on the racial hatred exhibited on social media.

SAHRC chairperson Bongani Majola said they want to find ways to deal with racism on social media. The South African Human Rights Commission received 505 race related complaints during the 2015/16 financial year.

Majola said it shows that there are deep inequalities and unfair discrimination in the country. Government departments and nongovernmental organizations appeared before the commission to say what they are doing to fight racism.

Vusithemba Ndima, Acting Director General in the Department of Arts and Culture said they are trying hard to bring about social cohesion between South Africans of different races, languages and colour.

He said, “We teach about national symbols, flags and national anthem to bring about national pride and patriotism. This has been integrated to schools curriculum.”

During 2015/16, the department held 63 community conversations with people of different historical backgrounds to bring about social cohesion. Provincial authorities also held their own social cohesion dialogues.

The Department of Arts and Culture also joined the Electoral Commission in making sure that political parties sign the pledge to abstain from hate speech and observe fair actions during campaign and elections.

Ndima said, “Let’s open public platforms for our communities to discuss their anxiety, desires and aspirations. Government should also work with the civil society to fight racism.”

Ndima also acknowledged that racism is exhibited in various ways even on social networks.

Ernst Roets, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, an organization representing the minority groups, also made their presentation to the commission. He told Xinhua that there is racism exhibited by many in the social media.

Roets said the government should address the education and inequalities which indicate that whites go to better schools while blacks go to poor schools. He said the inequality also make others feel marginalized.

Brian Makeketa, head of the Research and Policy Development Unit in the Commission for Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistics Communities said they have received a variety of complaints from South Africans abused by their counterparts in different areas.

Makeketa said some denominations like Muslims have complained that Christianity is favored in the country with their religious holidays not on the national holidays.

Makeketa said, “Social media is like a double edged sword, sometimes it works well like educating people about their rights but can also work for the worst.”

He said Children are exposed to pornography, fake news and the impact of what they get from facebook affect them.

Cathi Albertyn, law Professor said it is difficult to police the social media. She said they are however remedies if one is aggrieved, one can approach the Equality Court where the perpetrator could be fined or censured.

Facebook was also invited to make presentation before the commission. Facebook said those who face racist comments can report to them too.

Facebook representative in South Africa Ebele Okobi said their social media is for sharing information and no designed for hate speech. They only respond when facebook users report racist abuse.

Majola said it is very complex to address racism on social media. Last year, two South Africans were punished by the Equality Court for posting racist comments on facebook.

Penny Sparrow was fined about 11,500 U.S. dollars, and Matthew Theunissen was sentenced to community service for sports development in the disadvantaged area. Enditem

Source: Ndumiso mlilo, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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