'Shoot the boer': Lost in translation?

The translation of the song lyrics “dubul’ ibhunu” as “shoot the boer” is what is upsetting people, Judge Collin Lamont said during closing arguments in a hate speech case against African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema on Thursday.

However, he said this did not mean that the audience to which Malema was singing the song translated the words in the same way.

“It is common cause that [shoot the boer] could be the translation, but we can’t say it is the proper translation,” Lamont said in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, sitting as the Equality Court.

“The context of the song is destroy the regime [apartheid].”

He said words sung in a particular language may have a meaning to one audience and that a translation could have a meaning to a different audience.

Lamont was speaking during closing arguments by AfriForum and TAU-SA.

AfriForum’s lawyer, Martin Brassey, said the ANC had failed to establish that the song sung during the struggle years against apartheid was not considered inflammatory.

TAU-SA’s lawyer Roelof Du Plessis agreed.

He said the ANC should have held a formal press conference when the translation of the song lyrics was first published explaining what it meant and why it was being sung.

Last month the words “dubul’ ibhunu” and their symbolic, literal and historic meaning were scrutinised by witnesses from farmers’ organisation TAU-SA and civil rights group AfriForum. The latter brought the case against Malema and the ANC.

The ANC has defended Malema’s singing of the lyrics.

‘Under-developed’
Du Plessis also told the court that South Africa is “under-developed” in terms of hate speech compared to the rest of the world.

“I have about 15 books from different libraries from around the country on hate speech ...

“By reading these, I have discovered how under-developed South Africa is in terms of hate speech and how advanced the rest of the world is,” he said.

Du Plessis said it was important for Judge Lamont to take into account the order handed down on Monday declaring the words “dubul’ ibhunu” incitement to murder.

He said the singing of the song had caused negative feelings and friction among the public.

Lamont said he thought the issue had opened up a debate that could be seen to be healing to the country.

“This is the first trial ever to be recorded and viewed publicly in South Africa.

“I see it as being quite healing,” he said.

No evidence led
Earlier on Thursday Lamont said he would ignore Monday’s order as there had been no evidence led in that case apart from an agreement between the two parties involved.

On Monday Judge Leon Halgryn said in the South Gauteng High Court that “... the publication and chanting of the words ‘dubul’ ibhunu’ prima facie satisfies the crime of incitement to murder”.

The case related to two members of the Society for the Protection of Your Constitution.

One of them, Mahomed Vawda, planned to sing the song at an anti-crime march in Mpumalanga last year.
His colleague, Willem Harmse, opposed this.

Eventually the two reached an agreement and without much press fanfare secured a settlement order prohibiting the singing of the words.

Last month the words “dubhula ibhunu” and their symbolic, literal and historic meaning were scrutinised by witnesses from farmers’ organisation Tau-SA and civil rights group AfriForum.—Sapa

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