Thursday, 15 September 2011


Malema guilty of using hate speech

Julius Malema, the embattled leader of the ruling African National Congress’s Youth League, suffered another blow on Monday when he was found guilty of using hate speech.

Mr Malema, one of South Africa’s highest profile and most controversial politicians, is also the subject of a separate ANC disciplinary hearing which could see him expelled or suspended from the party.

The hate speech case began after AfriForum, a lobby group, filed a civil suit against him for singing “Kill the Boer,” an apartheid-era song that referred to white farmers. The judge, Collin Lamont, ordered Mr Malema, who did not appear in court, to pay costs.

“The singing of the song by Malema constituted hate speech,” Mr Lamont said. “No justification exists allowing the words to be sung . . . the words were in any event not sung on a justifiable occasion.”

The ruling is unlikely to impact on Mr Malema’s political struggles within the ANC, and the party said it was “appalled” by the court’s decision to outlaw the song.

“We view this judgement as an attempt to rewrite the South African history which is not desirable and unsustainable,” Jackson Mthembu, ANC spokesman, said in a statement. “This ruling flies against the need to accept our past and to preserve our heritage as an organisation and as a people.”

Mr Malema has courted increasing controversy since becoming president of the traditionally militant youth league in 2008 and has previously been accused of making racial remarks, including calling white people thieves during campaigning for local elections this year.

He has repeatedly called for the expropriation of white-owned land and for the nationalisation of mines and banks, triggering a debate that has exacerbated policy uncertainty in Africa’s largest economy and been blamed for stymieing investment in the country.

The 30-year-old, who has championed himself as the voice of South Africa’s poor blacks, has also been described as a kingmaker ahead of crucial ANC conferences next year amid speculation that Jacob Zuma, the president, could face a leadership challenge.

But in recent weeks, he has come under increasing pressure, with the ANC launching the disciplinary hearing against him and five youth league colleagues on charges of sowing division within the party and bringing it into disrepute.

The move followed calls by the youth league for regime change in neighbouring Botswana, an outburst that apparently crossed a line.

However, analysts say the disciplinary hearing – which is due to resume on Tuesday – is also part of a broader battle within the fractious ANC in the lead up to an elective conference in December 2012.

When the hearing opened two weeks ago, youth league supporters clashed with police and burnt images of Mr Zuma outside the ANC’s headquarters with the violence bringing downtown Johannesburg to a standstill. The hearing has since been moved to a new location in a bid to avoid a repeat of the unrest.

On Sunday, a local newspaper quoted Mr Malema as laying down the gauntlet to Mr Zuma during a rally in a Johannesburg township, saying the youth league would “never kneel and ask for forgiveness”.

“There is no crime we have committed . . . They should know that we will never ask for forgiveness,” the Sunday Times quoted him as saying. “This is a war. In a war, never expect red roses, and in a war there are casualties. But we can guarantee that we will win.”

Mr Malema has also faced mounting scrutiny over how he funds his lavish lifestyle and is the subject of separate investigation into allegations of fraud and corruption.

Yet when the hate speech trial began earlier this year, his influence in South African politics appeared to be on the rise and a number of ANC officials spoke in his favour as he argued that the song was a metaphor for apartheid, while denying that it incited violence or that he incited racial tensions.

Mr Malema’s populist views have struck a chord with many poor, young black South Africans who are increasingly frustrated by the poverty, unemployment and gaping inequalities that continue to plague the country 17 years after the end of apartheid.

In spite of significant gains since the first democratic elections in 1994 there are complaints that many areas of the economy, from land to big business, remain in the hands of the white minority and race continues to be a highly sensitive issue.

Sandiso Magaqa, the youth league’s general secretary, said the league would study the court’s judgment before responding.

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