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South Africa Wants To Outlaw Racism

October 28, 1999

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ More than five years after the collapse of apartheid, the government proposed a bill Thursday outlawing all forms of discrimination, saying racism is still rife in South Africa.

``Oppression and the dispossession of the majority of South African people was entrenched and sustained through the law,″ Justice Minister Penuel Maduna said. ``Although most of these laws have been repealed, the social consequences still remain with us and continue to prevail in all spheres of life in this country.″

The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Bill declares apartheid and similar forms of racism a crime against humanity. If adopted, it would ban all forms of prejudice based on race, gender, sexual persuasion, disability and other grounds.

People found guilty of breaking the law would be fined or have their business licenses suspended. Special equality courts would be set up to deal with complaints.

Critics said the bill goes too far, limits free speech and is possibly unconstitutional.

Others say the bill is difficult to interpret. It sets up a possibly endless series of lawsuits because everyone who feels aggrieved could take their case to court, said Anthea Jeffery, a researcher at the South African Institute of Race Relations.

``Business will see this as yet another hassle to doing business in South Africa,″ she said.

Under the bill, insurance companies would be barred from refusing policies to people because they are infected with AIDS or the HIV virus.

Some South Africans, however, supported the bill _ with reservations.

``It does make a huge statement of government’s intention to penetrate discrimination in every aspect of society,″ said Thabani Masuku, an analyst at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa.

But a clause that anyone accused of discrimination would have to prove their innocence could be unconstitutional, he said.

Masuku also said the bill tended to over-legislate because some provisions were already dealt with in other laws.

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