President Cyril Ramaphosa says there is no place for religious intolerance in South Africa.

He said this when he responded to oral questions in the National Assembly on Thursday.

“There is no place for religious intolerance of any sort in the democratic South Africa.

“Our Constitution is clear that no person may be discriminated against on the basis of, among other things, religion, conscience, belief, culture or language,” he said.

The President said this after a question was raised regarding rumours of extremist groups, alleged to be adherents of Islam, were on the rise in certain parts of the republic – sentiments which have been seen to be Islamophobic.

Responding to the question, the President said even as the country grapples with a past that is riddled with divisions and conflict, South Africa is a society characterised by religious tolerance and a deep respect for the great diversity of beliefs and cultures that exist in South Africa.

He said government has established institutions and enacted legislation to prevent discrimination, hate speech and intolerance, and to promote understanding, friendship and respect.

“The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, for example, is established in terms of the Constitution and has a broad mandate to promote and advance tolerance, friendship, humanity and national unity.

“The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2001 prohibits hate speech and provides for Equality Courts at which complaints of discrimination and allegations of hate speech are adjudicated.

“In short, South Africa has a progressive consitutional and legislative framework to address intolerance, hate speech and discrimination,” he said.

The President said, however, that while these formal mechanisms are important, they are not enough on their own to end the victimisation or vilification of any particular grouping in our country.

He said there was a need for a conscious and deliberate effort across society to prevent intolerance – whether this takes the form of Islamophobia or anti-Semitism, whether it is sexism or xenophobia.

This would require a clear condemnation of all overt acts of intolerance and a greater awareness about the more subtle ways in which prejudices can be expressed and reinforced.

“This places a responsibility on media outlets, officials, leaders and members of the public in general to avoid language that casts aspersions on a particular religion, cultural group, language or race.

“With the laws and institutions we have in place – which will be reinforced by the passage of the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill – we have a robust legal framework to deal with anyone promoting discrimination and intolerance.

“The greater challenge we have, which is a responsibility we all share, is to work together to rid our society of such attitudes and practices altogether.”

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