Some of the most horrific crimes committed in Limpopo and the rest of the country the past four years count among the hate incidents that united victims, case managers and representative organisations from varying sectors with a team that has just concluded much-needed data gathering on matters of this nature across five provinces.
Inferences drawn from the updated preliminary data analysis gathered during ongoing research on hate crimes, hate speech and intentional unfair discrimination conducted under the auspices of the Hate and Bias Crime Monitoring Project that is being steered by the Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG), thus far point at worrisome factors depicting an overall picture of a violent society in which the impact of hate crimes is grossly underestimated.
Equally disturbing is the fact that 70% of the cases documented was not reported to the Police, for various reasons.
Incidents that have occurred since January 2013 form the basis of the research scope that focusses on the nature of the crimes and subsequent effect on victims. The extended focus includes examining attitudes, prejudice and discrimination at the hands of service providers.
Data gathering for research purposes concluded with documenting of incidents in Limpopo on Friday.
On the last of four days of a second visit to Limpopo the head of the research team, research professor Juan Nel informed Polokwane Observer that they had endeavoured to include under-resourced provinces in addition to those characterised by active non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs). Interaction with role players in Polokwane, Thohoyandou and Malamulele had resulted in documenting an approximate 70 cases of hate incidents in the province, in collaboration with case managers working with victims of incidents, represented interest groups or were victims of cases under scrutiny, he explained.
In documentation made available to Polokwane Observer an outline of the research purpose elaborates on consolidated data gathering relating to hate crimes, hate speech and intentional unfair discrimination having been non-existent in South Africa until the inception of the project and that limited recorded data on such crimes in South Africa were mostly sector specific, relating to incidents such as xenophobic violence or anti-Semitism. Documentation on the project further refers to the HCWG conducting research to address the paucity of data on the nature and psychological impact of hate crimes on individuals, community and society. The purpose of the group is to develop joint strategies to engage government structures so as to explore how best to develop interventions to deal with prejudice-related crime. “The HCWG is striving toward meeting international standards of reporting hate crimes, thereby informing legislation and policy to ensure that hate crimes are dealt with effectively.”
The HCWG Steering Committee comprises of international and national representation, including Amnesty International, Lawyers for Human Rights, Psychological Society of South Africa, South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce and Sonke Gender Justice.
In the concluding comments to the preliminary report, reference is made to support to victims of hate crime being limited to whatever service providers could manage with inadequate funding and capacity, that education alone would not change the attitudes and behaviour preceding hate crimes while disruption needed to take place within the discourse of communities and that the findings indicated a need for hate crime legislation.
“The impact of hate crimes in South Africa is grossly underestimated on every level, from the individual citizen to the economy of our country.” The team continued to highlight the crucial fact that monitoring of hate crimes and, by extension, also the relative response thereto would remain ineffective unless it was prioritised in every organisation that provided services to victims of such crimes. Lastly it was remarked that the role of bigotry in the perpetuation of prejudice and discrimination could no longer be denied, downplayed or ignored and, more than ever, South Africa needed responsible, affirmative guidance from leaders if hate crimes were to be stemmed.
Case information has been gathered from case files and face-to-face interviews since January 2013 using a form developed and tested in consultation with various stakeholders over a period of four years. To date, it was learnt, the team had almost documented the 900 cases needed for meaningful analysis. The final report is expected to be concluded in September this year.
According to the preliminary analysis an estimated 3,5% of offenders in the cases assessed were Police officials, 2,8% were public servants and one was a defence force official. It seemed that 41,6% of the offenders were known to the victim while 42% of offenders lived in the community the victim resided in.
In a description of the hate incidents scrutinised, the breakdown shows the majority of cases involved more than one victim and 70% of cases documented were not reported to the Police. Reasons for cases going unreported included lack of trust in the South African Police Service due to previous negative experiences, perpetrators were in the employ of the Police, being told the Police only served South African citizens or that a case could not be reported if the perpetrator was unknown, fear of retribution or further victimisation as well as possible arrest and incidents not being classified as criminal cases.
The description of hate incidents breaks down the cases to include arson, that constituted 0,8% of incidents while robbery or theft stood was predominant at 43,7%. Measured individually murder, attempted murder and rape respectively made for 3,8% of the cases.
Of the factors impacting on prejudice, nationality ranked highest at 57,3% followed by religion at less than half of that at a total of 18,7% of the cases and sexual orientation and gender identity or expression constituting a respective 10% and 9,1%. Lowest were sex, inter-racial marriage and past-disclosed criminal record, all at 0,2%.
Intimidation featured in 45% of the hate speech cases, harassment in 23,1%, hate speech with incitement to violence in 16,6%, defamation in 10,2% of instances and intentional unfair discrimination in 9,6%.
Victim demographics show that three cases included in the research involved children below the age of 5 years, that 44% of interviewees were younger than 21 years, while 30,4% was between 21 and 30 years and 28,8% between 31 and 40 years. Almost 10% of cases related to lesbian or gay victims and little over 6% of cases involved transgender victims.
Nationals from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia proved to be among the majority of victims that were affected by crimes against foreigners.
Story & photo: YOLANDE NEL