Institutions reject proposed amendments to Equality Act


Institutions reject proposed amendments to Equality Act
Institutions reject proposed amendments to Equality Act

The civil rights organisation AfriForum submitted commentary on the proposed amendments to the Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Discrimination Act (PEPUDA) 4 of 2000 on 30 June 2021, in cooperation with Begrond and the Princess Gabo Foundation. The three institutions reject the proposed amendments, as these would give the state undue power to overthrow the total societal order in which communities live.

The commentary that was submitted focuses in general on the following points:

The definition of the term discrimination is augmented to such an extent that even unintentional discrimination would be included. This means that the intentions of the accused will not matter, only the experience of the complainant.

The definition of the term equality is augmented to include equal rights and access to resources, opportunities and benefits. This is incompatible with for example the cultural practices of traditional communities that appoint traditional leaders based on descent.

According to the amendments, civil institutions and organisations will be held liable for the actions of their members and personnel. It is impossible for any leadership to continuously monitor the actions of their followers and fear of prosecution will therefore paralyse civil institutions.

The state will have far-reaching power to dictate through codes and regulations how community institutions and non-governmental organisations should be structured and managed.

The state will be allowed to fund the complainants’ cases but will not have to provide financial support to those who have to defend themselves against accusations. In this way, communities’ tax-payer money will be used to fund feuds.

The state will have to review all legislation, codes and policies to ensure that these comply with the new requirements and definitions.

“The proposed amendments will give the state far-reaching powers to interfere in communities and their institutions. The amendments are so drastic that it would give government the legal space to overthrow the social order as we know it, moulding it to suit their ideology. Communities have the right and responsibility to group and express themselves in institutions in accordance with their religion, values and culture. We therefore reject these amendments,” says Barend Uys, Head of Intercultural Cooperation at AfriForum.

“The proposed PEPUDA Bill is once again proof of the current ANC government’s audacious arrogance in wanting to control and regulate the whole of civil society. As Christians, we strongly oppose this overreach of power. According to the Bible, the Lord gave a specific purpose and command to the authority. They stand in God’s service and should concern themselves with this. The authority should know its place and stop trying to nationalise freedom of worship and freedom of speech.

By implication, we would no longer be able to express our religion with other believers, or to preach and evangelise without fear of prosecution. This will silence the voice of religion out of fear or restrict freedom of religion. Every person and religious institution should add their voice and act. It has the potential to make a significant joint difference for our children and grandchildren,” says Dr Wikus Buys, Executive Director of Begrond.

“It is not being alarmist to take a stand against the Bill. It is wise, because opposition against it indeed protects our democratic society by defending the civil society’s independence. If the Bill is approved in its current form, the right of communities to express their unique identity and culture will be significantly prejudiced,” adds Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs.

“These amendments show a lack of respect for the traditions and customs of traditional communities and the culture of traditional leadership specifically. Traditional leadership is guided by ancient culture and customs that are passed on from our ancestors, and not by the ideology of any political party or the ideology of absolute equality. Governments’ overreach in the matter of traditional leadership is currently causing strife and hardship in traditional communities. If the power of government is extended to also allow it to meddle in the affairs of community-based organisations and NGOs, community members will suffer. Citizens suffer daily from the poor governance by authorities at all levels. Government should rather focus on correcting current challenges and should not try to usurp additional power,” says Princess Gabo Moroka, traditional leader and founder of the Princess Gabo Foundation.

Read the original article in Afrikaans on AfriForum