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Anti-apartheid song no call to violence: ANC’s Malema

The youth leader of South Africa’s ruling party said Thursday that singing “shoot the farmer” does not incite violence, during a hate speech trial that has captivated the nation.

The trial over the anti-apartheid struggle song has ignited a national debate over how to remember South Africa’s past.

Afriforum, a lobby that sees itself as the voice of white Afrikaners, wants the song banned as hate speech in its suit against Julius Malema, the president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) youth league.

“Saying and singing are two different things. They do what I say, and not what I sing,” Malema said during cross-examination.

Malema told the court that he disputes the English translation of the song — whose Zulu chorus, “Dubula ibhulu”, means “shoot the boer”, or farmer.

“When it is translated, it does not mean the same,” said Malema, arguing that the song was a rallying cry against oppression.

“Our song is sung in Zulu and it can lose its meaning during interpretation,” said Malema.

Afriforum argues the word — which is itself derived from the word “boer” in Afrikaans, the language descended from South Africa’s Dutch colonisers — is used to single out whites.

“The word ‘boer’, in this context, is a derogatory word referring to farmers, whites and to Afrikaners in particular,” it said in an affidavit.

After his two-day grilling, Malema told his supporters outside the court — watching him testify on big screen television set up by the youth league — “that the ANC was blamed for teaching its supporters liberations songs.”

“They are questioning the method used to defeat apartheid. They are punishing us through democratic courts for the sins they committed against apartheid.”

His supporters have been singing the song outside the court since the start of the trial, in a sign of how difficult banning the song could be.

The Sowetan newspaper said in an editorial that while Afriforum may have genuine concerns about the lyrics, their lawsuit has won them few friends.

“We do not want to be told what parts of history to forget and let go,” the Sowetan said.

“Black South Africans are justly proud of overcoming apartheid. We paid in blood for our freedom. It rankles that we should be proscribed from cherishing our past, no matter how hateful it was.”

Former president Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who has stood by Malema’s side throughout the trial, said the case had only heightened the popularity of the youth leader.

“Afriforum, by taking Julius to court, has made Julius Malema the next president of the country,” she said outside the court. “Julius is fighting for democracy.”

Much of the cross-examination of Malema focused on current political issues, including his call for nationalisation of mines and for more agressive land reforms.

“The court is not about the songs, it is about nationalisation, land distribution,” Malema told his supporters.

“They used the song to suppress the real issue, because during cross-examination they don’t ask about the song. They ask about the farms and the land.”

Live TV broadcasts of the proceedings have captivated South Africa as top ANC leaders and ministers have taken the stand to defend the song as a piece of national history, while lawyers for Afriforum have argued it constitutes hate speech and incites anti-white violence.

Hearings adjourned Thursday to allow time to prepare final arguments, for which no date was set.