There should be a national dialogue about the song lyrics dubul’ ibhunu, or “Kill the boer” given that some people had been offended by it, Deputy Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom said on Friday.
Supporters from as far as Limpopo picketed outside the South Gauteng High Court in support of Julius Malema during his battle with Afriforum for the right to sing the struggle song Dubul’ibhunu, translated as “Shoot the Boer”. A confident Malema riled up his supporters after his third day in court, chanting the controversial lyrics.
“If it offends certain people, I strongly believe we should engage one another,” Hanekom told the Equality Court during a heated cross examination by AfriForum’s lawyer Martin Brassey.
He was testifying for the defence in African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema’s hate speech hearing.
Hanekom said singing of the song was not a reference to an ethnic group, but to a system of racial oppression. He told the court it would be helpful if the people who felt hurt by the song understood it.
“The spirit [in which it is sung] does not even constitute hate speech.”
Hanekom said there was no intention to harm or incite violence when the song was sung.
“It’s in a friendly atmosphere … We need to talk to each other a bit more,” he said.
In his experience in the ANC, which he joined in 1980, it was never the party’s intention to “exclude anybody”, Hanekom testified. The ANC’s main objective was to bring about a non-racial, non-sexist and united society, he said. During the struggle, liberation songs were “just that”.
“White, black, Jewish, Muslim … people sang struggle songs … It was very important as a mobilisation tool.”
Today, he said, the singing of liberation songs was a celebration of “who we are”. They represented “every part of our history”, “and the fact we’ve brought to an end an unjust system”.
Hanekom added in cross examination that the ANC had the powers to “instruct any of us”. He was replying to a question by Brassey, who asked if the ANC could stop Malema from singing the song.
“Mr Malema has been under restraint from singing the song,” Brassey said.
Hanekom then again suggested the need for public dialogue.
“Let’s sit down and discuss it … we have a country that we all love … entering into dialogue can only be beneficial,” Hanekom replied.
He added it would be highly inappropriate if it was the only song Malema sang.
Referring to the 1995 Rugby World Cup, held in South Africa and which South Africa won, Brassey asked Hanekom what he would have thought if former president Nelson Mandela had sung the song at the event.
Hanekom said the question was hypothetical, but he thought Mandela would not have sung it, as it would have been inappropriate. Malema would not have sung it at the event either, he said.
Speaking to hundreds of supporters outside court on Friday, Malema said the media was the ANC’s main opposition.
“The main opposition of the ANC is the media … do not feed the opposition,” he said to cheers, repeating comments made by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday.
He urged them not to give the media “negative material”.
“You don’t have to explain to anyone why you are here.”
He told them the trial was about “burning” the struggle song, before thanking Hanekom for his testimony.
“We are here to defend a revolutionary song,” Malema said before singing “shoot to kill … kiss the boer, the farmer, kiss the boer, the farmer”.
He then mimicked the sound of a machine gun while making the sign of a gun with his hand and concluded with the word “attention”, at which the crowd cheered.
He handed the microphone to ANC MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who said what hurt her the most was seeing young faces in the crowd, most of them born after 1976. It also hurt her to see the ANC on trial again.
“Your heritage is on trial,” Madikizela-Mandela said.
“Tactics” were being used to derail what those in the struggle had fought for. She said this year she would be celebrating her 75th birthday, and was still talking to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren about fighting for their rights.
Once Malema and Madikizela-Mandela had left a man in the crowd took the microphone and began singing “kill the boer, kill the farmer”. ANC Youth League spokesperson Floyd Shivambu tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to stop.
On Thursday civil rights group Afriforum said it intended laying another hate speech charge against Malema, and one against Shivambu, for their singing of the song outside the court this week. Shivambu denied they had done this.
Earlier on Friday, the court heard that a witness, a farmer, “was too afraid to testify”.
Lawyer for farmers’ organisation Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (Tau-SA), Roelof du Plessis told Judge Colin Lamont that his witness, who had been the victim of a farm attack, had decided not to come forward out of fear for his life.
“The witness expressed sincere discomfort and apprehension. He has also raised concerns over his family, and for that reason will not testify on Friday,” Du Plessis told the court.
Lamont advised Du Plessis that his witness “need have no fear” as far as safety and security within the court was concerned. Du Plessis said the witness was worried about what would happen “outside this court”.
Malema was dressed in a navy blue suit on Friday and was seen sipping an energy drink.
The trial was adjourned to Monday at 10am. — Sapa