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Women’s Day in a time of COVID-19

What has COVID-19 shown us about women and leadership?

Women's Day in a time of COVID-19

Women’s Day in South Africa commemorates, as everyone knows, the historic march on the Union Buildings in 1956 by 20,000 women in protest against the discriminatory pass laws of the day. The march, which was entirely peaceful and included half an hour of standing in complete silence, was a compelling act of dissent against white male-dominated oppression. Women’s Day is meant to celebrate the power of this act and the influence this gesture had on the political climate of the day.

Yet, 64 years later, the narrative around Women’s Day has degenerated to a mealy-mouthed salute to the feminine aesthetic and a reinforcement of stereotypical female roles. Listening to a radio presenter going on about his wife this morning, and how wonderful she makes his life, I couldn’t help but wonder what her life is like, forever having to bolster his ego. Online Women’s Day messages are cringe-worthy: “Spring and women have much in common. They both are about flowering, revival, inspiration and beauty. Wish you to stay young, fresh and feminine 24/7. Happy Women’s Day!” “Dear and beloved women! I wish that this wonderful holiday reminds you of the joy of motherhood and of happiness in marriage. It’s Women’s Day today so let yourself enjoy being women in full!”

This portrayal of women is far removed from the force, eloquence and leadership demonstrated by those women in Pretoria in 1956, which got me to thinking about leadership, COVID-19, and the best examples of command and authority we’ve seen globally over the past few months. I don’t think I’ll upset anyone by saying Donald Trump doesn’t make the cut – not by a long shot. But which country has led the world in taking swift, decisive action to control the pandemic at an early stage? New Zealand, led by Jacinda Ardern.

Not all great leaders are women, but bad leaders tend to be men

Of course not all countries that have managed the crisis responsibly are led by women. That would be statistically unlikely as there are far fewer female than male leaders in the world today. And not all men are bad leaders. It would be just as sexist to say that as to claim that “all women are bad drivers”.

But it is notable that the worst cases of incompetent leadership involve men…Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsanaro; and some of the best-handled countries are led by women…New Zealand, Germany, Scotland (in the case of COVID-19, the four countries of the UK are governed by their devolved governments, so Boris Johnson is only responsible for England. Scotland’s First Minister is Nicola Sturgeon, and there is strong consensus that Scotland has weathered the pandemic far better than England).

How to make it in a man’s world

If we look back to some of the pioneering women leaders of nations, such as Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth I, they were admired (if not liked) for being tough. They were “like men”. That was the only way for a woman to gain any purchase in a male-dominated political environment. Modern women in power are more likely to succeed by channelling their soft skills – their so-called feminine side. Many of the behaviours that make exceptional leaders are more typical of women than men. However, dominant male behaviours are more effective at getting people into leadership positions in the first place. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Cindy Gallop, writing in the Harvard Business Review, “…gender differences in leadership effectiveness (what it takes to perform well) are out of sync with gender differences in leadership emergence (what it takes to make it to the top).” They say there are a number of leadership lessons men can learn from the average woman. Note…not just from Jacinda Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon, but from the average woman.

(Don’t) take it to the limit

Women (and I know this is a broad generalisation, but evidence bears it out) know their limitations. This does not mean women lack self-belief; rather it means they avoid the trap of over-confidence. Chamorro-Premuzic and Gallop say, “The only reason to be utterly devoid of self-doubt and insecurities is delusion.” Now who does that sound like? Women are better at putting the team ahead of themselves. Men’s leadership style is often narcissistic and self-centred. Women are more empathetic, and make a stronger emotional connection with their followers. Is this why New Zealanders were willing to endure a very hard lockdown (almost as hard as ours!) when the virus had barely touched their shores – Ardern had connected with them emotionally? Quite probably. Many of our friends in Scotland talked about “Nicola doing a good job”. Did anyone in England refer to “Boris”? Probably not, or not affectionately anyhow.

Female leaders are more likely to be humble than their male counterparts, as humility is intrinsically a feminine trait. Humility enables leaders to acknowledge mistakes, learn from experience, take others’ views into account, and be willing to change. It’s hard to avoid mention of Trump again. I can’t imagine him ever doing any of this.

Be a part of the generation that ends gender inequality

The theme for Women’s Month 2020 is “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future.” As she announced it, Minister for Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, called on South Africans to “Be a part of the generation that ends gender inequality”. That’s a big ask, not because it’s unachievable, but because it is vague. “Play your part in ending gender-based violence” is clear. It’s easy to identify actions that will reduce GBV. Ending gender inequality is harder, because inequality happens not only at a structural level but at an attitudinal one.

Men, learn from women

No one wanted COVID-19, and no one would wish it on the world again. But there are many lessons that can be learned from this pandemic and the way the world’s leaders have responded. One of them is the value of gender equality in leadership. When the history books are written about 2020, there will be very clear winners and losers in the COVID-19 stakes. And most of the winners have women leaders. Men need to learn different leadership approaches from women, rather than women being instructed to learn leadership tactics from men.

True gender equality will only come about when we dispose of stereotypes and acknowledge gender differences for what they can teach us. So-called soft skills, most commonly associated with women, might be the only thing that allows this world to survive.

Men and women are not identical – but they are equal. Happy Women’s Day everyone.

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BREAKING NEWS: Court finds lockdown regulations invalid and unconstitutional

The recent South African high court judgment regarding lockdown regulations is welcomed. Government must be held to account by the judiciary. This is the hallmark of a healthy functioning constitutional democracy. The Constitution remains supreme. All regulations must be checked and balanced in accordance with it. Ministers, you’ve been legally checked! SD

This article is reprinted from Business Day. Written by Genevieve Quintal 2020-0602

The High Court in Pretoria has found that the government’s level 4 and 3 lockdown regulations are unconstitutional and invalid, making it the first successful legal challenge to the measures put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The court application was lodged against co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma by Reyno De Beer and Liberty Fighters, a little known organisation of which De Beer is president.

De Beer and Liberty Fighters wanted the court to declare the regulations gazetted under the Disaster Management Act unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.

Judgement in the matter was handed down on Tuesday in favour of De Beer and his organisation.

After declaring the regulations unconstitutional and invalid, the court suspended their invalidity until Dlamini-Zuma, in consultation with relevant cabinet ministers, reviewed, amended and republished the regulations with due consideration to the limitation each regulation had on the rights guaranteed in the bill of rights as contained the constitution.

This was except for regulations that dealt with the prohibition of evictions, initiation practices and the closure of nightclubs and casinos.

The court also said the regulations around the ban on the sale of tobacco products was excluded from the order pending the finalisation of court action against it.

The minister was directed to comply with the order within 14 business days.

The court said that during the suspension, the level 3 regulations gazetted by the government will apply. Dlamini-Zuma was also ordered to pay costs in the matter for De Beer and Liberty Fighters.

The cabinet said on Tuesday that it noted the judgment and would make further comment once it had fully studied it.

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How much do attorneys charge for evictions?

Eviction costs

How much do attorneys charge for evictions?

The overall eviction costs depends on the facts, and the attorney’s approach.

An experienced and ethical attorney, should first try to negotiate a successful eviction through pre-court mediation.

This can be done if the attorney can persuade the tenant to leave voluntarily.

An experienced eviction lawyer needs to highlight to the tenant, the costs of not leaving, versus the benefits of exiting voluntarily.

A skilled negotiator can settle most legal matters out of court.

In our experience, one should first try and spend 2 billable hours on mediation, before going to court.

So that no time is wasted during this phase, an eviction attorney should, at the same time, draft and send the pre-court legal notifications i.e. eviction notices aka letters of demand.

This will ensure that any mediation strategy is done in parallel with the technical pre-court legal steps.

One should realistically budget around R2000 x 2 hours for this approach.

However, some tenants or occupiers, may be totally unreasonable, or desperate with no where else to go.

In these extreme cases, the formal court process must be pursued, and negotiations continue in parallel. After all, in these cases, government needs to get involved to provide alternative accommodation.

Any general eviction takes at least 2 to 3 months, costing upwards of R15 000 excl VAT and expenses.

This is if the tenant/occupier does not oppose the process, or interfere with its progression in any way.

Often a tenant will wait till the final court date to appear and ask for a chance to get a lawyer and oppose it.

While this is against the court rules, courts allow the postponement, because of the important constitutional rights at play i.e. a tenant’s right to legal representation and adequate housing.

To best prevent a tenant from delaying the process, and causing a landlord further losses, it is highly advisable to appoint an eviction specialist right from the beginning.

Like any operation, if one tries to do it oneself, there are pros and cons; except, in the context of evictions, mistakes can cause long delays.

An opposed eviction can cost upwards of R50 000.

The best advice is to appoint, from the start, an experienced eviction lawyer, who is also a skilled negotiator and strategist.

At SD Law, we offer clients help with the eviction process, and strive to achieve the most practical and cost effective outcome, by being strategic.

Contact Simon at simon@sdlaw.co.za, if you want to know more about how we can help you successfully navigate your eviction issue.

Related reading:-

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Time to hit the “pause” button on evictions?

Elsewhere in the world legislation is ensuring tenants don’t lose their homes due to COVID 19.

Time to hit the "pause" button on evictions. Eviction Lawyers

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about. COVID 19 is making everyone anxious for their health. Although the vast majority of patients recover, in South Africa we have a very vulnerable population and a weak health system, so widespread infection will wreak havoc in families and communities. Furthermore, those who have recovered describe the illness as extremely unpleasant, leaving them very weak for a considerable time. It’s to be avoided at all costs, hence the severe restrictions we are all living under and the lockdown that we are about to begin.

Beyond the literal threat the virus presents to health, up and down the country businesses have been closing, particularly in hospitality, and now all activities but essential services must cease while we all stay indoors for three weeks. If employers can’t afford to pay wages, employees will be sent home with no income. How, then, are they meant to pay their bills, including rent?

Some lenience on loan re-payments

As of 23 March, all the major banks have announced some provision for hardship caused by COVID 19. Standard Bank has announced a three-month payment holiday for small businesses with a turnover of less than R20 million, and for full-time students with student loans, to start on 1 April and run until 30 June. For other loans, including mortgage bonds, customers are urged to contact the bank. The other major banks are also assessing the situation and either inviting customers to contact them individually or waiting to see if they need to take more radical steps.

What about tenants?

Homeowners with bonds can hopefully expect some mercy, but what about tenants with rent to pay? In places where the pandemic has a tighter grip, legislative measures have been put in place to protect renters. Around the world, cities in the US and countries including Spain have temporarily halted evictions in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.

In England and Wales, the Housing Secretary has said, “Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period.” Up in Scotland, similar action is proposed. The Housing Minister said, “No landlord should evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to coronavirus and we are actively considering how best this can be addressed.”

A spokesperson for a tenants’ association said: “Up and down Scotland, tenants are facing not just a major health crisis, but the prospect of destitution and homelessness too. As their workplaces begin to shut their doors, it is hard to see how tenants who are already struggling to make ends meet will be able to pay their rent. It is unconscionable that anyone should even have to worry about being evicted from their home at this time.”

The situation here in South Africa is similar, and arguably will be worse, given our levels of poverty and disadvantage. At SD Law we support the 31 NGOswho have come together to appeal to President Cyril Ramaphosa, his Cabinet and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to follow in the footsteps of our international counterparts and forbid evictions during the current crisis. After all, in a lockdown, it makes no sense at all to put people out on the streets.

Stop the “ejectment” if not the eviction

We understand that there may be situations where the eviction is not only legitimate, but long overdue. Perhaps a tenant has significant arrears with rent or has damaged the property. We’re not advocating for the entire eviction process to be overturned in these circumstances. A fair and just procedure can be resumed in due course, when life returns to normal. But this is not the time to execute a warrant of ejectment, i.e. to put the tenant out.

Look after good tenants

We would also urge landlords to exercise leniency in the case of good tenants who suddenly cannot pay their rent because they have lost their jobs or income due to COVID 19. If a tenant has a history of timely payments and full compliance with the terms of the lease, they should be treated compassionately and a repayment plan worked out when the crisis is past.

From a purely commercial perspective, even if the appeal to our shared humanity is in vain, evicting a good tenant because they can’t pay their rent is unlikely to result in replacement income. No one is looking to move right now. And a property could sit empty far longer than the time it takes for the existing tenant to recover. Good tenants are worth looking after.

Update 27 March:

In the government gazette released last night (26/3/2020), all evictions and execution of attachment orders, both movable and immovable, including the removal of movable assets and sales in execution are suspended with immediate effect for the duration of the lockdown.

Update 26 March:

As we head into a lockdown that will straddle two months, you may be wondering what will happen if a lease expires during the three-week period? In short, no movement is allowed. A tenant cannot be forced to leave a rented property even if another tenant is lined up to move in. The incoming tenant also won’t be able to vacate their current premises. The extraordinary measures in place (see the government gazette for full list of restrictions) take precedence over other contracts in place, such as leases. Technically, landlords and tenants can pick up where they left off as soon as the lockdown is over, but in reality it may be easier for everyone simply to extend the lease by one month and push the moving-out or moving-in date back to 1 May. Everyone in the country is in the same situation.

Rent should still be paid for any occupancy beyond the lease expiry. If  the tenant is in financial difficulties, then a payment plan should be negotiated.

We’ve mentioned a “pause” on evictions to protect tenants who may be financially compromised as a result of COVID 19. But what about evictions that were already scheduled before this crisis emerged? Although the gazette does not mention eviction specifically, it is fair to assume that no movement means no movement. In effect, normal life is put on hold – paused – for three weeks. it will resume on 17 April.

Contact Eviction Lawyers for help

We are eviction lawyers in Cape Town and Johannesburg.  We act for both landlords and tenants and uphold the rights of each to a fair and satisfactory tenancy. In these uncertain times, we appeal to everyone to act with empathy and compassion. If you are worried about your tenancy or your tenants, contact Simon at Cape Town Eviction Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email   simon@sdlaw.co.za.

Further reading:

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Appointment of a curator

A practical guide to selecting and appointing a Curator Bonis

Appointing a Curator Bonis. Cape Town Lawyer

The ability to make decisions can be impaired because of diminished mental capacity, resulting from a variety of things, requiring the appointment of a curator. Sometimes the impairment is permanent, such as intellectual disability, brain injury or disease, dementia (Alzheimer’s) or incapacity related to ageing. In other cases the damage can be temporary, such as from serious illness, a stroke where the person recovers function, or mental illness. Mental disability and ageing are the most frequent causes of an inability to make effective decisions. Impairment can come on suddenly, for example following an accident or stroke (in the immediate aftermath), or it can be gradual and often dismissed, as in the case of encroaching dementia. Sometimes it takes a significant event for family members to fully accept that their loved one is slowly losing their grip on reality.

The general rule is that majors (those age 18 and above) are presumed mentally and legally competent to manage their own affairs until it is proved to the contrary. But if you have elderly parents, or if you suffer from a degenerative illness that may affect your decision making in future, you may want to think about how you will administer your parents’ affairs…or who will administer yours…should it become necessary.

Appointing a Curator Bonis

There are two ways in which you can appoint someone, called a Curator Bonis, to administer the estate of an individual who is incapable of managing their affairs. We’ll look at each procedure in turn.

1. Common law procedure – application to the High Court

The High Court may declare a person incapable of managing their own affairs, and may appoint a Curator to manage their affairs and/or property. The procedure for this is set out in Rule 57 of the Uniform Rules of the High Court.

Anyone who wants to apply to the court for such an order must first apply for the appointment of a Curator Ad Litem. This application is by way of notice of motion and must contain:

  • Full particulars of the locus standi (the right to make the application) of the applicant
  • Jurisdiction of the court
  • The age and sex of the person considered incapable, full particulars of their means, and information as to their general state of physical health
  • The relationship between this person and the applicant, and the duration and intimacy of their association (if any)
  • The facts and circumstances provided as evidence that the person is of unsound mind and incapable of managing their affairs
  • The name, occupation and address of the respective persons suggested for appointment by the court as Curator Ad Litem, and subsequently as Curator Bonis of the person’s affairs or property, and a statement that these people have been approached and have indicated that, if appointed, they would be able and willing to act in these respective capacities

The application should be supported by:

  • An affidavit by someone who knows the person well, containing facts and information about the person’s medical condition. The affidavit must also set out the relationship between the deponent (the referee) and the person, and the deponent’s interest in the matter
  • Two recent medical reports by medical practitioners, one of whom should (where practicable) be a psychiatrist, who have conducted recent examinations of the person to determine their medical condition. The reports must contain the facts about the condition and opinions about the nature, extent and likely duration of any mental disorder or defect observed. They must comment on the person’s inability to manage their affairs. The medical practitioners should not be related to the person or have any interest in the matter

The court will then appoint a Curator Ad Litem (usually an advocate of that court) to investigate the matter fully and report to the court and the Master [Rule 57(4) & (5)]. The Curator Ad Litem will interview the person and make any further enquiries necessary. They will then prepare and file a report with the Registrar of the court.

The Master also compiles a report after receiving the Curator Ad Litem’s report, making recommendations to the court regarding the merits of the application, the suitability of the nominated curator, their powers and security [Rule 57(7)]. Upon consideration of the application, the reports from the Curator Ad Litem and the Master, and any other relevant information, the court will issue the order if necessary [Rule 57(10)].

When the High Court appoints a curator to administer someone’s estate, they may not act on that appointment until formally authorised by the Master of the High Court. Section 71 of the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965 provides that no one who has been nominated, appointed or assumed as curator may administer any property belonging to the person under care until authorisation is received via letters of curatorship.

2. The procedure for the appointment of an administrator as set out in the Mental Health Care Act, 17 of 2002

In terms of the Mental Health Care Act, the Master of the High Court may, after considering and processing the required application, appoint an administrator to manage the property of a person who has been diagnosed as mentally ill or a person with severe or profound intellectual disability.

While the common law application is appropriate for any situation where the person is incapable of managing their own affairs, this application is only relevant in the case of mental illness or severe or profound disability. The diagnosis will have to be confirmed by medical certificates or reports by a mental health care practitioner duly authorised to make such a diagnosis.

Because no High Court application is required for the appointment of an administrator, the procedure is far less costly than the common law appointment of a Curator Bonis. The application can be lodged directly with the Master of the High Court in the relevant jurisdiction (where the person needing the administrator resides). The applicant does not need to use an attorney, although a good family lawyer’s assistance in lodging the application with the Master can make the task much easier.

The application procedure for the appointment of a curator in terms of the Mental Health Care Act is set out in section 60 of the Act and provides as follows:

  • Any person over the age of 18 may apply to a Master of a High Court for the appointment of an administrator for a mentally ill person or person with severe or profound intellectual disability.
  • The application must be made in writing, under oath or solemn affirmation and must:
    1. Set out the relationship of the applicant to that person
    2. State the reason why the spouse or next of kin did not make the application, if the applicant is not a spouse or next of kin of that person
    3. Describe the steps taken to establish the whereabouts of the next of kin before making the application, if they are not available to make the application
    4. Include all available mental health-related medical certificates or reports relevant to the mental health status of that person and to their incapacity to manage their property
    5. Set out the grounds on which the applicant believes the person is incapable of managing their property
    6. State that, within seven days immediately before submitting the application, the applicant had seen the person
    7. State the particulars of the person and their estimated property value and annual income
    8. Give the particulars and contact details of anyone who may provide further information relating to the mental status of the person
  • The applicant must attach proof that a copy of the application has been submitted to the mentally ill person.

Powers of a curator

The powers and responsibilities of a curator or administrator are primarily to administer the estate of the person who is incapable of managing their own affairs, including the following:

  • To receive, take care of, control and administer all the assets
  • To carry on/or discontinue, subject to any law which may be applicable, any trade, business or undertaking
  • To acquire, whether by purchase or otherwise, any property, movable or immovable, for the benefit of the estate
  • To apply any money for the maintenance, support or towards the benefit of the person; to invest or re-invest any funds etc.

These powers are usually subject to the prior consent and approval of the Master.

Contact a specialist family lawyer

While an attorney may not be explicitly required under the second procedure above, in both cases a family lawyer experienced in estate planning and management will make a complex and difficult situation easier to understand and manage. There are multiple steps in the process of appointing a curator, and it is important to ensure nothing is left out. There may be other considerations, too, such as a will and life insurance provisions. Don’t put the financial wellbeing of your loved one at risk. Contact family lawyer Cape Town for a consultation. Speak to Simon on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za today for more information or to make an appointment.

 

Use our handy checklist to make sure you have everything you need.

Read our blog post on the different types of curatorships and administrators.

 

 

 

 

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Criminal record? Wipe it clean

Make a fresh start

Expungement of criminal record

If you have a criminal record, no matter how minor the offence, your chances of getting a job are slim. But there is good news. If it’s been 10 years or more since the conviction, you can apply to have your criminal record wiped clean. This is known as “expungement”.

What is expungement of a criminal record?

Expungement of a criminal record is a legal process through which you can apply to the Department of Justice to remove any record of previous minor criminal offences from the criminal record database of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

This process came into effect in 2009 as a result of changes to the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act 51 of 1997) which made it easier for people to clear their name of a minor offence so that the past was no longer an obstacle to future employment opportunities. The Act was also designed to assist anyone convicted of apartheid era crimes.

Note that expungement of criminal records differs from restorative justice.

Are you eligible to have your criminal record wiped clean?

According to Section 217B(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, you can apply to have your criminal record expunged if:

  • It has been 10 years since the date of your conviction (if you were 18 or younger when you were convicted you can apply after five years).
  • It was a minor offence, such as petty theft or shoplifting.
  • You were not convicted of any other offence and were given the option of a fine rather than imprisonment.
  • You were told that by paying a fine you would not receive a criminal record and you’ve subsequently discovered that you indeed have a record.
  • You were fined less than R20 000.
  • You received a suspended sentence.
  • Your name has been removed from the National Register of Sex Offenders or the National Child Protection Register, if relevant.

You do not qualify for expungement if:

  • It has not been 10 years since the conviction.
  • Your name is either listed in or has not been removed from the National Register for Sex Offenders or the National Child Protection Register.
  • You were sentenced to prison without the option of a fine.
  • You received a fine of more than R20 000.
  • You were convicted of a serious crime such as murder, rape other sexual offences, or violent crimes.

Getting the ball rolling – steps in the expungement process

  1. First obtain a clearance certificate from the Criminal Record Centre of the SAPS proving that 10 years has elapsed since your conviction. This certificate must be attached to your application.
  2. Complete the expungement application forms (Part II and Part III) and, together with the clearance certificate, post or hand deliver them to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in Pretoria.
  3. If you meet the requirements set out in section 271B(1) of the Act, you will be notified in writing that your application was successful and that your crime has been expunged. You will likewise receive written notification if your application is denied together with the reasons for this decision. The process usually takes about three months.

The employment landscape

One of the biggest challenges facing South Africa is high unemployment, coupled with widespread poverty, high inequality and poor economic growth. The country’s official unemployment rate for job-seekers is 27.2% (Stats SA), but if we accept the broad definition, which includes those who have given up trying to find a job, the true level of unemployment is probably closer to 50%.

Finding a job is hard enough without the added barrier of a criminal record. Since more and more employers are running background checks on potential employees and are entitled to refuse or terminate employment because of a previous crime, even a minor one, it makes sense to apply for expungement. Any future background checks will not reflect prior convictions.

Given the gloomy landscape, job seekers must be able to “put their best foot forward”. Don’t let a past mistake determine your future.

Let our law firm help you

Cape Town Attorneys, SD Law & Associates Inc. are criminal attorneys and bail lawyers. Speak to us to find out more about having your criminal record wiped clean or about any other aspect of criminal law. Call Cape Town Lawyer Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za

 

Further reading:

 

 

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Wounding Words

Law firm Cape Town

by Simon David Dippenaar

As children, we were raised hearing the old adage that ‘sticks and stones may break one’s bones, but words can never harm one.’

However, one soon comes to the stark realisation that this is not actually true. This is particularly so, for example, when one considers all those that have committed suicide as a result of words.

Words are powerful. They can bring down governments, they can start wars, and they can destroy lives. The reality is that words can hurt more than broken bones in many cases. Some people actually bear the physical marks on their body from someone else’s words.

Too often we use words without considering their impact.

What we need is a society that is cognisant of the impact of words and a desire to temper them so that they are a force for good, and not for destruction.

This post was prompted by a very recent client who was repeatedly called a “moffie” and even beaten up by his neighbour because he is gay. “Moffie” is a word that has often been used to degrade gay men and is riddled with negative connotations.

More often than not, individuals choose to ignore the discrimination, but it can sometimes cause so much pain and make it impossible for some to break out of the psychological torture. This is one of those pillars of prejudice that has to be toppled in the creation of a non-sexist society.

The South African Constitution protects everyone in the country, irrespective of whether they are citizens or not, and all have the right to dignity and equality. The Constitution specifically provides that the right to freedom of expression does not extend to “advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm”.

It is important to note, however, that ‘hate speech’ does not refer to words that are merely hurtful, insulting or upsetting. For words to amount to hate speech, they must be regarded as advocating hatred and must constitute an incitement to cause harm to that person or group of persons.

Social ambiguity about men being abused is a factor in their not speaking up; they also run the risk of not being believed. In situations where individuals have experienced discrimination, there are various legal avenues that can be pursued.

Cape Town Lawyers at SD Law South Africa, we understand the pain caused by words that are intended to hurt and destroy. You need not suffer in silence. We can help so that you can walk tall and hold your head up high. We can ensure that your rights are protected, whether through alternative dispute resolution, litigation or other avenues.

Get in touch with me if you have a matter you would like to discuss.

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