Hanging himself in public?

Julius Malema’s recent “struggle song” has led to another charge of hate speech against him—in the same week that the Equality Court found him guilty of the same charge deriving from his comments on Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser.

The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president sang the song at his 29th birthday celebrations in Limpopo this month, and again last week while addressing students at a rally at the University of Johannesburg.

Mail & Guardian senior political reporter Mandy Rossouw has earned the ire of the ANC Youth League for her astute writing on its president, Julius Malema. Watch her take on Malema’s income scandal—and why the controversial figure is not going to go away anytime soon.

The song lyrics include “dubul’ ibhunu” (shoot the Boer), and “ziyareypa lezinja” (these dogs are raping).
[Full lyrics below].

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe defended the song last weekend, saying: “Anyone who relegates this song to hate speech is part of those who are trying to erase our history. That would be unfortunate, as it is a struggle song that was used when we were still fighting for liberation. This song will not be erased from our history because of people who are sensitive.”

The song echoes the slogan “Kill the Boer, kill the farmer”, associated especially with late ANCYL president Peter Mokaba. On Monday this week, civil rights group AfriForum Youth laid a charge of hate speech against Malema at the Equality Court.

This was the same day on which the Equality Court found Malema guilty of hate speech for comments he made about Zuma’s rape accuser. Addressing students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in January 2009, Malema said, “When a woman didn’t enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money. In the morning that lady requested breakfast and taxi money”

The Mail & Guardian asked five high-profile experts on freedom of speech, constitutional law and both Afrikaner and black nationalism what they thought of Malema’s recent bursts into song.

  • Hermann Giliomee, historian and author of Afrikaners: Biography of a People, said the song was “dangerous and likely to incite some people”.
  • Pierre de Vos, constitutional law lecturer at the University of Cape Town, said songs like these were sung at a specific time “when an apartheid government needed to be overthrown. Because we are in a democracy, there is no need for those songs. If you follow human rights, Mr Mantashe’s defence will not hold—apartheid is no more.”

    Because of Malema’s history and the insecurity of minority groups in the country, “some people are reacting to the person saying it”, instead of what is being said, De Vos said.

  • Melissa Moore, acting director of the Freedom of Expression Institute, said, “It is extremely worrying that the leaders of our country view this kind of speech as acceptable. This indicates a blatant disregard and disrespect for fundamental human rights and the well-being of South African society.

    “Malema’s statement amounts to hate speech, which is a form of speech that is not protected by the Constitution. Section 16(2) (c) of the Constitution prohibits the advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion and that constitutes incitement to cause harm. The statement clearly incites harm to a specific group of people based on their race and ethnicity. Such speech should not be condoned and should not go unpunished.”

  • Zandi Radebe, spokesperson for Blackwash, a Black Consciousness youth social movement based in Soweto, said, “Malema’s behaviour is predictable.” Blackwash condemns any hate speech, regardless of who it comes from. “For me the issue is: Why do we continuously applaud the behaviour of people like Julius Malema? He makes the same noise and we give him the same reaction, I’m really tired of this.”


  • Jane Duncan, professor of journalism at Rhodes University, said, “Struggle songs help people to remember the spirit of resistance that led to South Africa’s transition to democracy. For as long as South Africa remains untransformed on many levels of the social formation—for instance, racism or economic inequalities remain—these songs will continue to be sung, as people take courage from the spirit of resistance from the past to overcome the injustices of the present.”

    “The song as sung by Mokaba could not be considered hate speech, even when people sung it at Mokaba’s funeral, and the Human Rights Commission [HRC] erred in making this judgement at the time. In order for speech to constitute incitement to cause harm, specific targets of that harm need to be identified. The song cannot be said to be directed at specific individuals, and in fact, the song is strongly metaphorical in that it refers to the system of apartheid being killed, so the specificity of speech that is necessary for something to constitute incitement to cause harm was absent.

    “In addition, the HRC extended the definition of harm too far, to include psychological harm to ‘minorities or vulnerable groups’: forms of harm that are virtually impossible to prove as they are too subjective. If the song was not hate speech then, then it is doubtful that Malema’s rendition of the song constituted hate speech either.

    “The point is that these struggle songs will not go away, and banning them out of existence will merely reinforce their mystique, leading to greater determination to chant them.

    “The tide is turning against Malema; every time he opens his mouth, it becomes clearer that he is not leadership material. He should be allowed the space to hang himself in public. The tendency of many social actors to cry ‘hate speech’ every time Malema says something outrageous may backfire against those with genuine grievances in the long run.

    “The Equality Court’s recent ruling against Malema’s ‘hate speech’ underlines the problem. His statements were stupid and misogynistic, but the court’s ruling has broadened the definition of hate speech so much that speech that is merely considered to be harmful can now be proscribed. This means that huge swathes of speech on political matters can now be punished. Society as a whole is set back by such rulings, and it is important for us to see this bigger picture and not be blinded by our disdain for Malema. Future judgements proscribing socially necessary speech will be based on this precedent.”

Lyrics of the song sung by Malema during his birthday speech (transcribed and translated from the Times’s online audio of Malema’s birthday speech):

Ayasab’ amagwala (the cowards are scared)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
ayeah
dubula dubula (shoot shoot )
ayasab ‘a magwala (the cowards are scared)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
awu yoh
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)

awe mama ndiyekele (mother leave me be)
awe mama iyeah (oh mother)
awe mama ndiyekele (mother leave me be)
awe mama iyo (oh mother)

aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)

Ayasab’ amagwala (the cowards are scared)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot )
ayeah
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
ayasab ‘a magwala (the cowards are scared)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
iii yoh
dubula dubala (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)

awe mama ndiyekele (mother leave me be)
awe mama iyo (oh mother)
awe mama ndiyekele (mother leave me be)
awe mama iyo (oh mother)

aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)

Ziyarapa lezinja (these dogs are raping)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
ay iyeah
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
Ziyarapa lezinja (these dogs are raping)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
ay iiiyo
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)

Aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
Aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
Aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
Aw dubul’ibhunu (shoot the Boer)
dubula dubula (shoot shoot)

Ayasab’ amagwala (the cowards are scared)
Dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
Ay iyeah
Dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
Ayasab’ amagwala (the cowards are scared)
Dubula dubula (shoot shoot)
Ay iyeah

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