Laws to criminalise racism and hate crimes a priority: Ronald Lamola

Justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola says he will lobby the Treasury to lift a freeze on hiring new prosecutors.
Justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola says he will lobby the Treasury to lift a freeze on hiring new prosecutors.
Image: Gallo Images/Sowetan/ Kabelo Mokoena

Justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola wants the new parliament to prioritise a proposed piece of legislation aimed at criminalising racism and other hate crimes.

Presenting his first budget vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Lamola detailed his legislative agenda for the 2019-2020 financial year, including the revival of the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill which the fifth parliament failed to finalise before the expiry of its term before the elections in May.

The bill sparked controversy when it was first tabled in parliament in 2018, with its detractors describing it as a threat to freedom of speech.

But Lamola said he would soon be reviving the bill in parliament so that the justice portfolio committee could start processing it afresh.

He said the controversial Traditional Courts Bill would also be back on the agenda.

As part of its legislative programme, the department intends to promote the following bills this financial year:

• The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which has already been introduced into parliament and was being considered by the justice and correctional services portfolio committee.

• The Traditional Courts Bill, which was passed by the National Assembly of the fifth parliament and is awaiting consideration by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

• A bill providing for the establishment of a Land Court aimed at promoting land justice and the democratisation of land ownership. The bill would aim to address some of the challenges experienced with the current Land Claims Court dispensation.

• The Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill would be introduced to ensure compliance with court judgments.

Turning to the scourge of crime and corruption, Lamola said he would lobby the national Treasury to lift a freeze on the hiring of staff at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) from 2015, which he said had resulted in almost 700 vacant prosecutor posts.

Lamola said he would also discuss with the Treasury the implications of accepting private-donor funding to bolster the capacity of the NPA.

"However, much more needs to be done to resource the NPA to enable it to meet the demands for its services. For example, the fiscally induced freeze on all hiring of staff since 2015, resulting in 685 vacant prosecutor posts as at the end of June, needs to be reconsidered so that the NPA can recruit much-needed middle-to-senior level positions as a matter of urgency, especially in the specialised units," he said.

"While recognising the current fiscal constraints, the department will need to engage with the national Treasury regarding measures to enable the adequate capacitation of the NPA."

Lamola said the department would discuss with the NPA and the Treasury the implications of private-donor funding "because as we leave no stone unturned to ensure all criminal cases are prosecuted, we will nonetheless endeavour to do nothing that will undermine the independence and integrity of the prosecution".

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