South African hate speech trial


May 01 2011

South African hate speech trial

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This past week, inside the Equality Court, ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, appeared in a hate-speach case. Controversy arose when media reported that Malema sang the struggle song Dubul ibhunu at the University of Johannesburg last year.

Malema, 30, joined the ANC Youth Pioneer movement at the age of 13 when  apartheid was still an issue. He boasts that the ANC taught him to fire a gun and chant slogans. Now, years later, as the leader of the ANC Youth, some think he could become the future president of South Africa.

In South Africa’s apartheid era, the pro-black song was sung and includes the disputed phrase “Shoot the Boer!” Afrikaners, the descendants of Dutch settler and creators of apartheid think the song is offensive and incites racial hatred. (The word Boer is the Afrikaans word for farmer.)

So, Afrikaner interest groups, Afriforum and the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU), took the song and Julius Malema to court to prove the song incites hatred towards white farmers. Taking the stand was Malema, supported by his all black counsel. Some of his supporters included ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, leading poet Wally Serote, and Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the ex-wife of former President Nelson Mandela.

For Malema, the song was a metaphorical call to defeat apartheid, not a literal incitement to violence. For TAU and Afriforum, the song suggested that Afrikaners were the enemy at least to be shunned and at most to be killed. They arued that this hatred could lead to genocide.

But, the song was not the only issue brought up at trial. Malema was also questioned about the land reform policy he was trying for. He has ideas of policies that would confiscate land of white farmers without compensation. Many Afrikaners think it is unjust to be forced from their land and many are fearful of these possible policies.

Overall, this court case shows the continued issue of racism. The trial decision will also reveal where free speech crosses the king into hate speech in one of Africa’s most democratic countries.

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