S.African youth leader guilty of hate speech

12th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A South African court found Julius Malema, the ruling ANC's youth leader, guilty of hate speech Monday for singing an anti-apartheid anthem whose lyrics mean "shoot the white farmer".

"The singing of the song by Malema constituted hate speech," Judge Collin Lamont said in a ruling that banned him and his party from singing the lyrics.

"Those words are derogatory, dehumanising," he said, adding that in post-apartheid South Africa, all citizens are called to treat each other equally.

"The enemy has become the friend, the brother. Members of society are enjoined to embrace all citizens as their brothers," the judge said. "This new approach to each other much be fostered."

Malema, 30, was ordered to pay some of the court costs.

While the Malema trial was unfolding, another court ruled in a separate case that the song was an incitement to murder.

The hate speech case is unconnected to disciplinary hearings by the African National Congress over other comments by the influential Malema, who faces expulsion over charges that he has brought the party into disrepute.

Testimony in the hate speech trial had captivated South Africa, as it was broadcast live on television with a parade of top ANC officials coming to court to stand by him.

But on Monday, neither Malema nor any senior party officials were seen at the court for the ruling. His supporters have vowed to appeal.

The civil case was brought by Afriforum, which styles itself as a rights group for minority whites, arguing that the Zulu song's chorus, "dubula ibhunu" -- "shoot the boer", or farmer -- is used to single out whites for violence.

The word "ibhunu" -- which is itself derived from "boer" in Afrikaans, the language descended from South Africa's Dutch colonisers -- became one of the central issues of the trial.

Afriforum argued the word "boer" is a derogatory word referring to farmers and whites more generally, but the ANC insisted that "ibhunu" means simply "oppressor" in the context of the struggle against minority rule.

"The ANC has never understood 'dubula ibhunu' as meaning shooting individuals. It was talking about the context of the enemy under apartheid," Floyd Shivambu, spokesman for the ANC Youth League, told journalists ahead of the verdict.

"The song was about fighting the system of racial oppression, of white supremacy."

About 100 ANC supporters gathered outside the court, far smaller than the crowds seen during the trial in May. Some carried signs with slogans like "scrap all charges now", while a small group sang a Zulu song that says "what did we do to deserve this oppression?"

Neither the hate speech trial nor the ANC disciplinary hearing have daunted the outspoken Malema, who on Saturday accused the government of failing its people, warning of a "war" to aid poor blacks.

"This is war, and we should fight moving forward. There will be casualties, but I know that we are going to win," Malema said.

Malema has won a following among poor blacks by speaking to their struggles to find jobs and a decent living in a country where unemployment officially stands at 25 percent but is believed much higher.

His support helped President Jacob Zuma's drive to convince the ANC to oust his predecessor Thabo Mbeki from office.

Now their relations have soured, with Malema demanding that Zuma support his call to nationalise mines and resettle more white-owned farmland with poor blacks.

Malema's supporters have begun warning that Zuma could follow Mbeki out of power, as the ANC is preparing for a crucial meeting next year which will choose a presidential candidate who is all but certain to become South Africa's next leader.

© 2011 AFP

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