THE African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament says it will push for specific legislation to be enacted that will criminalise any act that perpetuates racism or glorifies apartheid.
"The current legislative provisions are not sufficient to punish and dissuade racists. As the majority party in Parliament, we will soon investigate creating a specific law or amending the existing legislation to ensure that acts of racism and promotion of apartheid are criminalised and punishable by imprisonment. We will persuade and work with relevant stakeholders to ensure that Parliament enacts such law," the office of the ANC chief whip said in a statement on Tuesday.
Other countries have enacted legislation that criminalises racism. In the UK, "incitement to racial hatred" is an arrestable offence. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 made publication of material that incited racial hatred an offence that was punishable by imprisonment.
Penny Sparrow, a former Jawitz Properties employee, likened black people to monkeys on her Facebook page at the weekend. In another race row on Monday, Standard Bank said it was suspending economist Chris Hart over comments he made on Twitter. Mr Hart, who has apologised, tweeted: "More than 25 years after apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities."
Standard Bank said his comments had racial undertones and were incorrect.
The office of the ANC chief whip said on Tuesday that it was clear from these incidences that "there are still elements who are resisting efforts for racial unity and are working tirelessly to widen the racial rifts and tensions created by apartheid oppression more than 21 years since the advent of our democratic dispensation founded on the noble principles of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing in the interest of a united, nonracial, nonsexist and prosperous SA".
"We can no longer as a nation tolerate such dehumanising violations, where (the) black majority are treated as subhumans and are referred to as monkeys, baboons and other derogatory racist epithets in the land of their birth.
"In the context of our painful past, racial bigotry and apartheid must be considered serious human rights violations that must be punishable by imprisonment," the ANC’s statement read.
"Elsewhere, glorification of Nazism and denial of the Holocaust are crimes and perpetrators are tried and sentenced to prison terms. Apartheid was declared by the United Nations a crime against humanity. It caused untold suffering and injustice to millions of black people, including murder, torture, destruction of families, harassment and kidnappings. Any person who glorifies such a system essentially promotes and celebrates acts of criminality committed against black people," the ANC chief whip’s office said in the statement.
The FW de Klerk Foundation on Tuesday called on Ms Sparrow "to make an unqualified apology for her remarks and to acquaint herself with the values on which our new society has been established".
"The trouble with Ms Sparrow’s remarks is that they reinforce black stereotypes of whites as insensitive and supercilious racists. These stereotypes are also unfair and further erode relationships between our communities‚" the foundation said.
It said the damage caused by Ms Sparrow "has been compounded by her subsequent attempts to explain herself".
"Our Constitution calls on us to heal the divisions of the past and to establish a society based on democratic values‚ social justice and fundamental rights. Nonracialism is one of the foundational values on which our new society has been created. Human dignity is another," the foundation noted.