Afro-digital ethics, law and online hate in Africa

Author: Thompson Chengeta
European Research Council Fellow on Artificial Intelligence Ethics and law, University of Southampton

Introduction

Across the globe, there is a general increase in online hate and sharing of hateful messages on online platforms. The past weeks saw hateful and xenophobic hashtags trending in South Africa. As noted by some commentators, online hate “can pollute civic discourse, inflict harm on targeted victims, create and exacerbate social divisions, and erode trust in the host platforms”. Online hate should not only be dealt with in terms of the law but also afro-digital ethics. With increased internet penetration in Africa, advent of smartphones and digital platforms, many people spend most of their time online. In this digital age, the virtues of our lives are beginning to be shaped and influenced by our virtual lives. Yet, not much has been done to guide our lives – particularly those of young people – in this new virtual world. The African saying “it takes a village to raise a child” denotes communitarian ethos relating to duties of the elderly in the community to instil African ethics in young persons. But does such an African village exist online? While digital technologies are undoubtedly impacting our African utopias or dystopias on what it means to be humane, the elderly who usually enforce and instil African ethics and morality in young people are offline. For parents who are online, they rarely have access to their children’s online platforms for many reasons including the use of ghost accounts. I also contend that a failure to respect African ethics online is a result of the breakdown of African communitarian ethos in the real world. For example, the spread of hateful content against fellow Africans has its genesis in economic failures of African leaders, most of whom are selfishly and corruptly enriching themselves.

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The right to health for refugees in South Africa: Concrete reality or wishful thinking?

Author: Cristiano d’Orsi
Research Fellow and Lecturer at the South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg

Scope of the study: How the ‘right to health’ is intended in this work

South Africa (SA) is one of the largest economies in Africa. Since December 2010 the country is a member of the informal association of five major emerging world economies (BRICS) and the only African country to be a member of the G20, the major international forum for economic cooperation and policymaking.

At the end of 2016, SA was reported to be hosting 91,043 refugees.

Although SA has ratified a good number of human rights legal instruments since the end of apartheid, in 1994, , the actual implementation of the rights enshrined in some of them still remain problematic. One such right is the  right of refugees to have access to adequate healthcare in the country.

This situation occurs also because access healthcare services in SA, as with many other fundamental rights in the republic, has historically been biased in terms of a number of arbitrary grounds (p. 55).

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The upcoming Hate Crimes Bill: A welcome development in the fight against xenophobia and hate crimes in South Africa

Gideon MuchiriAuthor: Gideon Muchiri
LLD student, Department of Jurisprudence, University of Pretoria

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD) of South Africa is working on the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes Bill,[1] due for tabling in Parliament in September 2016. This Bill, if enacted into law, will strengthen the role of law enforcement officials including the police, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and courts in holding perpetrators of hate crimes, including xenophobic conduct, legally accountable for not only the criminal acts committed, but also for the hate motive. The new law will foster a rights-based approach to enhancement of the rights of victims and thus send a clear and unequivocal message to the society that crimes motivated by hate and xenophobia will not be tolerated in South Africa and are subject to punishment.

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Xenophobia in South Africa: The time for introspection has come

josua_lootsAuthor: Josua Loots
Project Manager, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Xenophobia, just like so many other unsettling issues in South Africa, is gradually becoming part of the way in which we are perceived as a society. The newest upsurge in xenophobic violence clearly indicates that we have not made significant progress since the problem surfaced in 2008. More unsettling however, is the unwillingness of South Africans from all levels of society to acknowledge and address the problem – media houses neglect to conduct in-depth investigations, politicians fail to express their concern over the issue, the South African Police Service controversially fuels public perception through its involvement in incidents regarding foreign nationals, and civilians exercise mob executions with self-righteousness and pride.

The South African Constitution offers protection to citizens and non-citizens, and is one of few constitutions in the world that indisputably does so. The preamble of the Constitution reiterates South Africa’s commitment to uphold the rule of law, and this commitment greatly depends on consistent application of the law in South Africa. It is imperative that South Africans understand that our own claims on the protection of and rights entrenched in the Constitution depend on respecting the rights of others. Arbitrary mob killings of foreign nationals during the past five years suggest that South Africans struggle to come to terms that all people are equal before the law. Allegations of foreign nationals being involved in criminal activities often lead to mob justice, which is a dangerous step towards corroding the rule of law, and eventually the Constitution upon which our society so greatly depends.

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