Confusion over complaints against Bullard

The South African Human Rights Commission is conducting an internal investigation into an incorrect media statement that said it would not pursue a complaint of racism against former Sunday Times columnist David Bullard.

“The official position of the commission has never been that we are not taking up the matter,” said CEO Tseliso Thipanyane.

On Wednesday, spokesperson Vincent Moaga said that the matter would not be taken further because the Sunday Times had apologised for the column.

“He made a mistake,” said Thipanyane. “That is under investigation.”

Thipanyane said he only became aware of complaints that the column was racist on Wednesday; the commission was still considering the matter. One complaint was received from writer Victor Dlamini, and he understood that there could be another two complaints.

“If we feel there is a case to answer we might decide to take the matter to the Equality Court, or to have a hearing,” said Thipanyane.

In its apology, the newspaper said: “The Sunday Times subscribes to non-racialism and is committed to building a South Africa based on the values enshrined in the Constitution.

“We will not be a platform for views which undermine the values of our publication ... We apologise to readers who were offended by the column.”

Moaga had said that it is enough that the newspaper, and not Bullard, apologised, because he was writing as a columnist for it.

Bullard was fired by editor Mondli Makhanya over the column, titled: “Uncolonised Africa wouldn’t know what it was missing.” In the column, which appeared on April 7, Bullard asks readers to “imagine for a moment what life would be like in South Africa if the evil white man hadn’t come to disturb the rustic idyll of the early black settlers”.

He goes on to describe an “undisturbed” South Africa with unmined resources, no roads, no television or internet—and no whisky and cigars.

He concludes: “Then something happens that will change this undisturbed South Africa forever. Huge metal ships land on the coast and big metal flying birds are sent to explore the sparsely populated hinterland.

“They are full of men from a place called China and they are looking for coal, metal, oil, platinum, farmland, fresh water and cheap labour and lots of it. Suddenly the indigenous population realise what they have been missing all along: someone to blame. At last their prayers have been answered.”—Sapa

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