Malema: The revolution is on trial

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema said on Tuesday it was not him on trial for hate speech, but the “revolution”, as a music expert traced the history of struggle songs in SA for the court.

African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema said on Tuesday it was not him on trial for hate speech, but the “revolution”.

“It is not me who is on trial. The revolution is on trial,” Malema said through a megaphone to hundreds of supporters pressed against the locked gates of the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

Speaking from the safety of the court steps and surrounded by bodyguards with assault rifles, he said: “They have taken the method we used to defeat them, and again we will defeat them.”

His comment was preceded by the large group singing the song “awudubhule ibhunu“, which translates as “shoot the boer”.

Hate speech
Civil rights group Afriforum is contesting the singing of the lyrics, in an Equality Court case where they hope the words will be declared hate speech.

Malema has refused to apologise or withdraw the comments, despite a meeting with Afriforum. Its deputy president Ernst Roets spent Tuesday explaining to the court that they believe the lyrics cause hostility in South Africa.

Malema said he would continue to defend its history and legacy.

ANC Women’s League veteran and member of Parliament Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said Malema was correct.

“It isn’t Julius who is on trial, as he says. It is the ANC which is on trial,” she said outside the court.

She thanked the supporters for coming. Their bodyguards then pushed an opening through the crowd which mobbed their vehicles. Police and the bodyguards shoved photographers and the public away amid chants of “Juju Juju”, Malema’s nickname.

With bodyguards standing on the running boards, the cars inched through the crowd on Pritchard Street as people with cellphones waved them over everyone’s heads to try and snap a picture.

History of struggle songs
Music expert Anne-Marie Gray earlier testified that according to her research, the earliest struggle songs sounded like Christian hymns and were sung by a group called Ohlange, organised by John Dube for the South African Native National Congress between 1912 to 1915.

They got permission to travel as a choir and used the songs to inform people of issues they had with land laws. White authorities were oblivious to their meaning, and so permission was granted for the tours.

They felt they weren’t achieving much with the songs, so Ruben Koleza introduced a genre called “iragtime” based on the songs of slave minstrels. In the 1950s, still frustrated with little progress, they adopted the more militant call-and-repeat style of Zulu songs. Anyone’s names or any words could be used in this style.

“Some of them are supposed to be militant, but they are beautiful songs,” she said.

White fright
Gray said after 1980 the toyi-toyi and chanting became more prevalent and she found evidence it scared white people. Words like “Senzeni na (what have we done)” were extracted from older songs and used in isolation “with pride” and to remind people of the original song.

She said such styles and toyi-toyis could be seen at weddings, and some white people would run away.

“To most white people the chant and the toyi-toyi is quite frightening … that is where discourse is important.”

Earlier Roets was asked if he thought dialogue would resolve the problem, but he said it had already not worked. His underlying concern was the murders of farmers — a literal meaning of “boer“.

Gray’s testimony continues on Wednesday. — Sapa

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