8-10-2012By Duncan Breen
Refugee Protection Program
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s eleven day trip to Africa took another historic turn when she met with Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former President and one of the world’s most prominent leaders in human rights. During the visit Clinton called on South Africans to live up to Mandela’s legacy by promoting tolerance and forgiveness in the country.
South Africa has made significant progress since 1994 when Nelson Mandela became its first democratically elected President. However one area in which government leaders, local NGOs and the South African Human Rights Commission have cited the need for further progress is in addressing intolerance and hate crime. Xenophobic violence erupted across the country in 2008 and although an Inter-Ministerial Committee was established by the government to respond to repeated threats of further violence in 2010, local NGOs continue to raise concerns regarding inconsistent efforts from the government to address xenophobia. Last month, over 500 foreign nationals were displaced following attacks on foreign traders in Botshabelo in the Free State province.
In addition, “corrective rape” and other attacks on South Africa’s LGBTI community show the need for consistent action against all forms of hate crime. In June this year, the murder of two LGBTI people in separate incidents lead to renewed calls for the introduction of hate crimes legislation.
South Africa has publicly committed to developing and implementing hate crimes legislation and last year developed a national task team to address violence specifically targeting LGBTI people. Although many countries in Europe and North America have hate crimes legislation, South Africa will be the first in Africa to introduce legal measures to protect against violence that targets people based on their identity. The US government can support South Africa in its efforts to tackle hate crimes, including developing policy and legislation to address impunity for perpetrators, by:
- Encouraging senior leaders to continue speaking out against intolerance and hate crimes, including on specific cases as they occur;
- Offering technical advice in legislative development process based on U.S. experiences;
- Providing technical support for government and NGO efforts to strengthen monitoring and reporting of hate crimes; and
- Offering training through the Department of Justice on strategies to improve police and prosecution responses to hate crimes.