Lobby group AfriForum said it would oppose the ruling of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that comments made by Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema were not hate speech.
The SAHRC held a media briefing on Wednesday during which it released its findings on hate speech cases lodged against Malema.
Regarding a complaint that Malema had called for the slaughter of white people, the commission’s Dr Shanelle van der Berg said the commission found that although the statement could be construed by white people as hurtful, the context of the statement was important.
Malema said that white people would not be killed under his leadership, Van Der Berg noted.
“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,” said the commission.
Looking at the complaint regarding the party singing the controversial song including the lyrics often translated as “kill the boer”, the commission found the singing of the struggle song did not constitute hate speech as the song was “figurative and political” and “does not call for the killing of boers”.
Turning to a complaint about a comment made by Malema at a rally about Indians mistreating black people in KwaZulu-Natal, the commission found that “objective assessment shows that Mr Malema was calling for the proper treatment of black people by Indians,” and that the statement was, therefore, “not hurtful”.
“Spaces must be created for vulnerable groups to air their anger and frustrations over continued lack of resources,” Van der Berg said.
However, the lobby group said 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.”
(Additional reporting by Daniel Friedman and ANA)