South Africa court finds ANC party leader guilty of 'hate speech'

[JURIST] A South African court on Monday found the controversial African National Congress (ANC) [party website; NYT backgrounder] Youth League President Julius Malema [BBC profile] guilty [ruling, text] of hate speech for singing the apartheid-era protest song "Shoot the Boer." Boer is the Afrikaans word for farmer and broadly refers to whites in general and Afrikaners in particular. Malema argued earlier that the words were not to be taken literally and that the song was a celebration of fight against minority rule [NYT report], not meant to incite hatred or violence [VOA report]. Kallie Kriel, CEO of Afriforum [advocacy website], which brought the civil hate speech suit, welcomed the ruling [press release] which stretches far beyond Malema, prohibiting all South Africans from singing the song. The ruling, which comes after months of live national television coverage, opens the door for criminal prosecutions [AP report] against anyone who defies the judge's order. Crowds outside the courtroom defiantly broke out singing the now-infamous song. Malema is also facing a separate ANC disciplinary hearing which, if found guilty, could result in his expulsion from the party altogether.

The ruling is another test for legal boundary lines between prohibited hate speech and constitutionally guaranteed free speech in Africa's largest democracy. JURIST guest columnist Gregory Gordon recently called for a more accurate understanding [JURIST op-ed] of the nascent and rapidly evolving area of international speech crime law. In June, Dutch politician Geert Wilders [personal website; JURIST news archive] was acquitted of all charges [judgment text, in Dutch], the court finding his anti-Islam statements were not hate speech or discriminatory [JURIST report]. Wilders has made several "anti-Islam" comments as a political official, including: several comments similar to "I don't hate Muslims, I hate Islam"; comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf and calling for it to be banned; proposing a tax on wearing a hijab, or burqa; proposing a halt to Muslim immigration to the Netherlands. In December, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] issued summonses [JURIST report] for six Kenyan citizens [press release] believed to be responsible for post-election violence in 2007 [JURIST news archive] that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths in that country. Among those summoned was radio broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang [BBC profile] who is accused of committing crimes against humanity (persecution on political grounds) in part through broadcasting messages urging violence against certain Kenyan ethnic groups following the controversial 2007 presidential election.

 

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