The South African Human Rights Commission on Thursday said an apology by Matjhabeng mayor Nkosinjani Speelman for using an offensive term in reference to the coloured community of Bronville would not suffice, confirming that it would launch a full investigation once the national lockdown ends.
The ANC in the Free State has suspended Speelman, who has since apologised for using the term “boesman” to describe people who violate the lockdown rules ahead of a Covid-19 operation.
The word translates as “bush man”, a blanket term used by colonialists to describe the Khoi and San hunter-gatherers and trackers they encountered on their forays.
He made the comments while addressing a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) operation to check whether people were walking around in breach of lockdown directives.
“Having listened to the full video, the commission is appalled that Mayor Speelman, a government official and community leader, also encouraged soldiers not to hesitate to shoot and to brutalise the people of Bronville,” the SAHRC said in a statement.
“This is a call on the soldiers to violate the Constitution and the rights of the community to life and freedom and security of the person. The commission condemns this conduct in the strongest terms and hopes that the president – who had earlier painstakingly pleaded with the soldiers and SAPS members not to use violence against, but must assist communities – to hold accountable those who repudiate his instructions in this regard.”
Provincial ANC spokesperson Thabo Meeko, on Wednesday said the party was embarrassed by what Speelman had done, adding an acting mayor would be appointed in due course.
The SAHRC said it had also been made aware of the community’s complaints relating to poor service delivery impacting on the realisation of their rights, confirming that a full investigation would take place once the national lockdown ends.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday night announced that the 21-day lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus would be extended by two weeks.