September 12, 2011

ANC appalled by judgment against Malema

The ANC says it is "appalled" by the hate speech judgment against youth league leader Julius Malema, saying the ruling failed to take into account "the history of South Africa". “People have experienced far worse in the past,” ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza told the Mail & Guardian. “The issue is not about Malema. These songs were sung before he came along.”

Malema was found guilty of hate speech in the South Gauteng High Court, sitting as the Equality Court, by Judge Colin Lamont, who ruled that the words Dubula I'bhunu -- or "shoot the boer" -- might have been part of a legitimate struggle song in the past, but in the way Malema sang the chant, and the way they had been portrayed through the media, they had been transformed into hate speech. The ruling party disagreed, Khoza said.
“The ANC is not happy. We will study full judgment to understand the implications and decide on the next step to take, having looked at the options”, he said. The ANC later confirmed that it would appeal the decision. Lamont read his judgment to a packed court room full of media, AfriForum supporters and a handful of ANC members.

Lamont called the words Dubula i'bhunu "discriminatory and harmful" to the Afrikaner community and said "there was no justification for singing them". AfriForum opened a civil case at the Equality Court after Malema sang the song at several youth league rallies in March this year. The group argued that "Malema singing Dubulu i'Bhunu suggested white Afrikaners should be shunned or at worst killed," said Lamont in his ruling. He said the reference to "boer" could be loosely translated as "referring to the Afrikaaner community". Lamont said certain words in the song "dehumanised the Afrikaner community, referring to them as dogs". "Dehumanising the enemy was one of the seven steps to genocide," he pointed out. "Hate speech is a direct invasion of dignity," Lamont ruled, effectively balancing the right to dignity with the right to freedom of speech. "There is inevitably tension between freedom of speech and hate speech," Lamont further said. However, Lamont made it clear that there he saw no evidence that the song had led to specific farm murders and violence against Afrikaners in the months when it was sung by the youth league leader.

The judge ruled that Malema understood the double meaning of "Dubula i'bhunu", which had changed from a struggle song against apartheid to one that also promoted violence against the Afrikaans community. Malema and the ANC had argued in court this year that the song was a struggle song that referred to apartheid and did not exhort its listeners to kill farmers or Afrikaans people. Lamont disagreed, saying the struggle song had been innocuous before it made headlines in the media but "would never be innocuous again". Once the media translated the words as "shoot the boer", the audience understood them as promoting violence against the white Afrikaans community, he added. He said Malema was well aware of how the song was understood when he sang the song at youth league rallies, and knew how it would be reported on in the media.´Lamont also said it mattered how "audience decoded words and not just how they were uttered". "It is reasonable that words mean different things to people" said Lamont. (Mail & Guardian)

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