A South African court on Monday ruled that ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema was guilty of hate speech for singing an apartheid-era song that advocated the killing the white farmers.
“I find the words uttered by Malema constitute hate speech,” said Judge Collin Lamont. Malema was ordered to pay court costs in the civil case that did not carry a criminal penalty.
The verdict against Malema, a vocal proponent for the nationalisation of mines, comes as he is fighting for his political survival in a separate disciplinary case brought by the African National Congress, which has charged him with bringing the party into disrepute.
The 30-year-old Malema, who is seen as a future leader of the ANC, was not present in court.
The case was brought to the South Gauteng High Court by the Afrikaner civil rights group AfriForum Youth, which claimed white farmers felt vulnerable because of the song “dubul’ ibhunu”, (“shoot the boer”).
In his judgment, Lamont said words were powerful weapons that could lead to disastrous actions and even genocide
“The words of one person inciting others … that’s how a genocide can start,” he said in his judgment.
Lamont said in determining the outcome of the case the court had to analyse the meaning of the words in the song and its effect on society.
He said single words and a group of words had “elastic meanings”. The words Malema sang had not been forgotten as they were derogatory and hurtful.
He said the response of the public was relevant to analyse the entirety of its context.
Genocide was defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction” of an ethnic, religious, or national group”.
Lamont likened the songs by Malema as those sung by soldiers when they were at war.
“Soldiers in battle don’t treat the enemy as individuals but as a thing [a unit].”
Lamont said the difference was that soldiers were singing to celebrate.
A video of Malema singing the song was shown during his hearing.
“He executed rhythmic movement … making the shape of a firearm … and certain gestures were made,” said Lamont.
An armed person was one in power and one who intimidated, the court found.
Lamont noted that unfair discrimination remained rooted in certain structures of society.
Racial discrimination of one group or community over another could not be justified, and certain groups did not enjoy “superior status” over others in a democracy.
Since apartheid, transformation had been difficult for some in South Africa.
“Certain members [of the public] embrace the new society, others found it hard to adjust … it will continue for some time. There can be no transformation without pain,” said Lamont.
The court heard that the Constitution provided for equality, and the eradication of social and economic inequalities.
South Africa had international obligations under the United Nations for peace and unity including the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, and discrimination against women.
Lamont traced South Africa’s history from the period before settlers started arriving in South Africa, through the years of white minority dominance.
He described it as a case of “social conflict” and launched into a long explanation on the context, background and history of the struggle against apartheid.
He asid certain aspects of the past may “never be fully reversed”, but reconciliation and national unity were meant to heal the divisions of the past.
The ANC consisted of the “suppressed majority” of apartheid.
Protection for minority groups
AfriForums’s spokesperson Ernst Roets told the Mail and Guardian he was “very excited about the judgment.”
Roets said he was pleased that Lamont has taken “deliberate effort to explain why he came to the conclusion he did and why certain groups feel alienated by the songs”.
He said the judgment would lead “to a protection of minority groups and would promote unity in the country”.
Roets said AfriForum was not worried that the judgment would increase Malema’s popularity as his supporters rallied around him. Roets said Afriforum felt “it did the right thing by taking the civil case to the Equality Court”.
He added that it had tried to resolve the issue with dialogue but when this failed, “it had no option but to go to court”. – Sapa, Reuters