Increase in the number of complaints over racial slurs: Human Rights Commission

The word racism.
The word racism.
Image: Thinkstock

The South African Human Rights Commission has noted an increase in the number of complaints involving racial slurs.

"During the four financial years under review‚ equality-related complaints have consistently been one of the top [five] rights violations that the commission has dealt with. The number of these complaints has steadily increased‚ peaking in the 2015/2016 financial year. With the increasing number of people being aware of their rights‚ and as technology evolves‚ the inequality of lived realities and the disparity in the social dynamics in South Africa has come to the fore‚" the commission said in a report.

According to the commission‚ the right to equality remains the right most frequently litigated by the commission in the Equality Court.

"Most of these cases involve the use of the 'k-word' and other derogatory comments with racial undertones‚ such as use of the terms 'baboon' or 'monkey'. In the 2015/2016 financial year‚ 31 of 54 matters litigated by the provincial offices related to the right to equality and hate speech‚" the commission said.

On New Year’s Eve in 2016‚ a Durban estate agent‚ Penny Sparrow‚ became the face of racial tensions in the country after she likened black beachgoers to monkeys on her Facebook post.

Sparrow's rant wasn't welcomed at all by the African National Congress which hauled her to the Equality Court for hate speech and also laid criminal charges against her.

The Equality Court in 2016 slapped her with a R150‚000 fine‚ which she was ordered to pay to the Adelaide and Oliver Tambo Foundation.

In another incident in August last year‚ an Ekurhuleni Municipality official was fired over racist comments made to her colleagues in an email.

The unnamed employee wrote an email to her colleagues in which she wrote: “Ek is moeg met hierdie bobbejane hier‚ hulle dink ek sal bedank soos Meneer …. en ek sal nie [I am tired of these baboons here‚ they think I will resign like Mr … and I won’t]‚” she said.

In another incident‚ a First National Bank (FNB) manager was also dismissed for insulting black employees in November 2016. The woman was first suspended for using a racial slur against black employees in January 2016.

The commission noted that in the 2015/2016 financial year‚ it received a total of 749 equality-related complaints‚ 505 of which were on the grounds of race.

Discrimination on the grounds of disability‚ and ethnic and social origin‚ comprised the second and third most common grounds of discrimination‚ the commission said.

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