If passed into law, a proposed bill could see SA comedians facing 10 years behind bars for making certain jokes.
The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill was released for public comment last week by Justice Minister Michael Masutha.
According to the provisions of the bill, there will be heavy fines and a maximum jail term of 10 years for anyone convicted of showing bias; prejudice or intolerance on the grounds of race; colour; sex; gender (and gender identity); sexual orientation; religion; belief; culture; language; nationality; birth; disability; HIV status; occupation or trade; albinism and ethnic or social origin.
However, this did not sit well with SA comedians who have criticised the bill for being too broad. Speaking to City Press, Jason Goliath insisted that there’s a big difference between hate speech and what comedians do on stage. Defining the two as one would be totally unfair.
“What comedians do on stage compared with what people like Penny Sparrow, for example, say, shows a definite difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. We do it in the name of fun,” he said.
On the contrary, comedian Tol Ass Mo, supported the bill.
“I refer to people like Penny Sparrow, who was (originally) fined R150 000 for calling black people ‘monkeys’, and Mcebo Dlamini – the former president of the students’ representative council at the University of the Witwatersrand – who said he loved Adolf Hitler. These comments were offensive and inappropriate. Anyone should be able to contest or take people to court for using hate speech,” he told City Press.
Comedian John Vlismas who spoke on the issue on 702 recently strongly opposed to comedy being categorised with hate speech. In his opinion, what comedians do on stage is to entertain and should not be judged on the same level with the hate speech which people rant from the comfort of the office. He does have a point there considering that some comedians even joke about their moms.