In a bid to stamp out racism across South Africa, the Justice and Constitutional Development Department (JCD) have announced plans to establish a “database”, which logs all reported racist incidents and puts in place a clear framework to deal with each case.
This striking idea is part of the National Action Plan (NAP): It’s a 67-page document which takes its lead from the UN World Council Against Racism. It aims to give more power to the victims and give them a stronger support network if they’ve been affected by a blatant hate crime.
How would a “racism database” work?
With South Africa’s chequered history, racial tensions
John Jeffrey is the JCD’s deputy minister. He lifted the lid on the plans during a media briefing on Monday. Jeffrey explained that the document would also be made “public knowledge”, meaning that South Africans could track the progress and the details of each case:
“The NAP should specify who should take action, establish a time frame and a budget and provide for monitoring and evaluation, it should also be a public document that is widely disseminated. The fight for non-racialism, equity and equality is not short-term work, but generational work.”
But how exactly would such a system work? The NAP has confirmed the government would establish a “Rapid Response Mechanism” to deal with such incidents, and those in charge of the would be responsible for:
- Collating incidents of racist / xenophobic offences reported to either SAPS or the SA Human Rights Commission.
- Assigning a caseworker to each incident, and setting a realistic timeframe in which they must come to a decision.
- Logging the reasons behind any decision to prosecute or exonerate an alleged perpetrator.
- Monitoring the progress of the programme and noting how many cases have been successful.
The National Action Plan to fight discrimination
The NAP’s 19-point plan to combat all forms of discrimination also has a strong focus on education. Strategies to prevent racist incidents from happening in the first place include instructions for schools to teach lessons on different ethnic backgrounds and the wider context of immigration and refugees across the world.
Despite what the critics will have to say, this is no “Big Brother” operation. You’ll only be whacked on the database if you’ve been conclusively proven to have used racist language in a hateful manner. If you can avoid saying awful things, this really shouldn’t become an issue.
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