He would rather err on the side of wanting to promote dialogue in society than inhibit it, Justice Minister Michael Masutha said.
He gave this reply to a question about judicial overreach in Cape Town yesterday.
He said he believed South Africa would continue for some time to refine the kind of constitutional democracy it has created for itself.
On free speech, Masutha said he did not think there was a rule that judges or judgments should not be criticised. Even the judiciary, he said, criticised itself, adding that criticism may not always be a bad thing.
Measured criticism, which was considerate of the need to promote mutual respect and the constitutional mandate that the different arms of the government held, was also an important consideration, he said hours before he tabled his budget speech in Parliament.
Masutha said the Hate Speech Bill, which is due to come up in Parliament this year, had created some controversy.
The government believed international best practice did suggest it was desirable to target hate speech.
However, Masutha said, South Africa needed to be chilled and not straitjacketed as a society. “At the same time we know speech can cause nations to go to war. Words can just be as offensive and provocative,” he said.
The bill was necessary to promote peace, dignity and an environment of tolerance and cohesion.
“The courts have already acted where free speech has been abused.”
Masutha said public safety was of supreme importance and required that all sectors in society play their role.
“The shocking deaths of Karabo Mokoena and Courtney Peters in recent days prove that women and children continue to bear the brunt of abuse, violence and senseless killings,” Masutha said.
He expressed his condolences to the families.
“We hope the entire criminal justice family will bring the perpetrators of these crimes to book.”
The government’s fight against crime remained a priority. The Asset Forfeiture Unit continued to be a critical part of the state’s arsenal against crime. By the end of March, the SIU had recovered R685m in corruption cases where amounts of R5m or more were involved.
On better identifying suspects, he said the integrated justice system was on course to being implemented.
The IJS will establish a unique single person identifier and person verification application to assist with the tracking of an individual in the CJS through biometrics.
This system will ensure electronic information exchanges between the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority and his department.
“These integrations are connecting 1150 police stations linked to 509 courts across nine provinces,” he said.