Home News S.Africa court says ‘shoot the farmer’ song incites murder

S.Africa court says ‘shoot the farmer’ song incites murder

Published on 16/05/2011

A South African court ruled Monday that a controversial anti-apartheid struggle song with the lyrics "shoot the farmer" is an incitement to murder.

The song has been at the centre of a politically-charged debate in South Africa, with white Afrikaner groups condemning it as hate speech and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) arguing it is a legacy of the struggle against white-minority rule.

Judge Leon Halgryn took a firm stand against the song Monday in Johannesburg high court, ruling that publishing or singing the lyrics “dubula ibhunu” (“shoot the farmer” in Zulu) “prima facie satisfies the crime of incitement to murder”.

Halgryn denied the ANC permission to appeal an earlier ruling that the song was illegal and unconstitutional.

His decision came two days before South Africa holds local elections and three days before final arguments in a separate court case on whether the song constitutes hate speech.

The latter case pits the firebrand leader of the ANC’s youth league, Julius Malema, against Afriforum, a lobby group focused on white Afrikaner issues.

It drew national attention last month when the alternately revered and reviled Malema, who has made the song his trademark, sparred with Afriforum’s lawyers from the witness box in standoffs that were broadcast live on TV.

Final arguments in the case are set down for Thursday and Friday.

The ANC and Afriforum had different interpretations on the legal implications of Monday’s ruling and how it would impact the more high-profile hate speech hearing.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the party will not change policy on the song until after the hate speech ruling.

“When the matter has gone its course in the equality court, it’s only then that together with the judgement today that the ANC will decide on the next course of action,” he told AFP.

But Afriforum legal spokesman Willie Spies said the decision had already paved the way for singing the song to be prosecuted as a criminal offence.

“If a person is found guilty of inciting murder, then obviously he’s guilty of a crime,” he told AFP.

Spies said the judgement set a legal precedent that Afriforum believes should shape the hate speech case.

“The precedent that’s been created is a good one that will be usable in the process that is ahead of us,” he said.

The ANC has argued that the word “ibhunu” — which is itself derived from the word “boer” in Afrikaans, the language descended from South Africa’s Dutch colonisers — simply means “oppressor” in the song.

But Afriforum argues the word 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 in the hate speech case.