AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel has filed papers at the High Court in Johannesburg in a bid to have a recent ruling by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) overturned.
The commission found that various comments made by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema did not constitute hate speech.
While a series of complaints were looked at, it seems AfriForum is concerned in particular with Malema’s assertion that he and his party were “not calling for the slaughter of white people, at least not for now”.
The EFF leader made the comments in 2016, speaking to supporters and media outside the Newcastle Magistrate’s Court in KwaZulu-Natal, where he faced charges of inciting people to occupy privately owned land, a case which culminated in him launching a constitutional challenge to the Riotous Assemblies Act of 1956.
The commission’s Dr Shanelle van der Berg said at a media briefing to explain the rulings that the SAHRC had found that although the statement could be construed by white people as hurtful, the context of the statement is important, noting that Malema said that white people would not be killed under his leadership.
READ MORE: We won’t slaughter whites … for now – Malema
The commission said: “It is clear that white colonial settlers did occupy black land, by both violent and non-violent means. It is also clear that currently white people, albeit a political minority, have significant economic power. Importantly, this statement is about how white people behaved historically. It is not about how they are behaving now. Mr Malema also specifically says he is not calling for the killing or slaughtering of white people now. He is only calling for the occupation of their land.”
AfriForum believes there are double standards at play, with Kriel taking an explanation of the SAHRC’s ruling at the media briefing in March to be a tacit admission that a white person making the same comments as Malema would have been seen as guilty of hate speech.
The lobby group’s CEO said: “Had a white person stated that they were ‘not calling for the slaughter of black people, at least not for now’, this would almost certainly have been found to constitute hate speech.”
He added that AfriForum believed there was “reasonable apprehension” that the SAHRC ruling was biased.
“The decision stands to be reviewed and corrected or set aside on that basis,” he added.
READ MORE: Malema’s comments not hate speech – SAHRC
AfriForum had said directly after the ruling that they planned to challenge it, saying it could not “allow” Malema to get away with “racist” utterances.
It said the commission’s findings were racially biased and accused the SAHRC’s ruling of justifying “blatant hate speech” and the “incitement of violence” against a minority group.
The group’s deputy CEO Ernst Roets said: “According to the HRC’s ruling, it is further important to take into account the factual, social, and historical context in which Malema made his utterances, and also that the identity of the group targeted by his utterance must belong to a vulnerable group.
“The HRC also relies on a court ruling which determined that vulnerable people must be allowed to express their anger and pain by means of the use of robust speech. With this, the HRC insinuates that white people are not a vulnerable group, despite the fact that this group is a minority group in South Africa. It is also concerning that the HRC argues that individuals from certain race groups must be allowed to utter racist things, provided that it is done in the right context.
“AfriForum cannot allow that individuals with political power, such as Malema, get away with racist utterances.”