Black First Land First (BLF) has failed to appear in the Equality Court sitting in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, to answer a hate speech case against it.
Labour union Solidarity dragged the BLF to court following alleged racial utterances after the deaths of four pupils at Hoërskool Driehoek, Vanderbijlpark, in February.
On that fateful day at approximately 08.00am, pupils Roydon Olckers, 17, Jandré Steyn, 13, Marli Currie, 14, and Marnus Nagel, 16, were killed and 22 others injured after a concrete walkway linking two buildings collapsed.
In court papers, Solidarity said it was challenging the BLF after its spokesperson, Lindsay Maasdorp, responded to a post by Facebook user Siyanda Gumede in which he said he was unmoved by the pupils’ deaths as they would eliminate “three future problems” from the world.
According to the Facebook post, Gumede said Maasdorp was “correct” in posting his comment, adding “God is responding”.
“Why should we frown on the ancestors’ petitions to punish the land thieves including their offspring,” Gumede continued.
Solidarity is acting on behalf of Jandré and Marnus’ parents as well as the parents of Stefanus Olivier, 15, who was a witness to the incident, and survivor Jennifer Delport, 14.
The labour union is demanding damages of R150,000 payable to each complainant for the impairment of their dignity as well as emotional and psychological suffering caused.
Advocate Dirk Groenewald told Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng efforts by the sheriff of the court to serve the BLF with court papers were unsuccessful as its offices were locked and its lawyer had not responded to e-mails.
“We should proceed on [a] default basis. The matter has received extensive media coverage. It is a very serious matter,” said Groenewald.
Judge Mokgoatlheng said the case was important to the entire society in a “sense that it has to do with transgressions”.
“It relates to constitutional issues and [the] Equality Act. I am inclined because of the seriousness of the case not to proceed today whether they are intentionally not willing to participate in this court [or not]. If you proceed, there is a possibility they can come back with whatever reasons and seek rescission.”
The court then ordered Solidarity to publish a notice of set down in Beeld, The Star and Sowetan newspapers regarding the date when the BLF is expected to honour the hearing.
Judge Mokgoatlheng warned if the BLF failed to honour the next court date, then the case would proceed in its absence.
The case was postponed to September 17.