According to Ulrich Roux, a Johannesburg attorney, recent court findings set a clear precedent that the courts will no longer tolerate any speech that seeks to divide South Africans along the lines of race or ethnicity.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) was granted an order in the Equality Court in Durban yesterday that interdicts Zuma from “publishing, propagating, advocating or communicating hate speech”.
This comes after statements he made in an open letter in July 2017. Therein, he referred to ministers Pravin Gordhan and Derek Hanekom as sellouts and supporters of white monopoly capital.
The letter followed closely on the pair’s sacking as ministers by then president Zuma.
Gordhan was described as “one of the most corrupt cadres of the ANC who thinks African natives are no better than just being sugar cane cutters who must be forever subservient to a master like him for sustenance [sic]”. Hanekom, meanwhile, was described as a “white Afrikaner Askari” and “no better than a vile dog trained to maul a black skin”.
Shortly after the release of his letter, the SAHRC issued a statement saying the letter promoted hatred on the basis of race, and warned that it would approach the Equality Court. The younger Zuma was ordered to apologise to Hanekom and Gordhan shortly thereafter.
Yesterday’s ruling, following an agreement reached between Zuma and the SAHRC, however, demanded an apology to all South Africans within seven days. It also ordered him to pay R30 000 each to the Ihlange High School near Inanda, and the Umthombo Secondary School in the Mpophomeni area of Howick in KwaZulu-Natal.
It made a declaratory order that his comments did amount to hate speech, while restraining him from making similar comments in future.
His apology was to be sent to the SAHRC for publication, while the fine may be paid in instalments of R10 000 per month.
If he failed to comply with the terms of the agreement, the SAHRC would reserve its rights to proceed further.
According to Roux, aside from constituting hate speech, Edward’s comments could also fall foul of laws against crimen injuria – and should either Gordhan or Hanekom choose to press charges against him, he could be prosecuted.
Roux said since these comments were directed at the two ministers directly, and sought to insult them, he could be facing similar charges to those that landed Momberg behind bars.
“Hate speech is any speech that seeks to incite violence or division between cultures or groups, while crimen injuria refers to any derogatory remarks or insults aimed at specific persons, and causes emotional hardship. So, in this case, he could be prosecuted if they chose to lay charges.”
Roux views the findings as positive, saying it shows that South Africa’s legal system is intent on dealing with behaviour that divides the country.
“We love calling ourselves a rainbow nation, but at the first possible sign of anything going wrong, we jump at the opportunity to divide ourselves. The courts and the SAHRC are trying to stamp out behaviour that encourages this.”
ALSO READ: AfriForum misses the Vicki Momberg point