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By Daniel Friedman

Digital news editor


Malema ‘definitely at the forefront of racism in SA’ – Zille

The SAHRC say they expected a backlash after clearing the EFF leader of hate speech charges, and they got one.


Western Cape Premier Helen Zille took to Twitter on Thursday to voice her opinion that Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema is “definitely at the forefront of racism” in South Africa.

Zille was responding to a Twitter user who replied to another tweet by the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) head of politics and governance, Gareth van Onselen, who felt that the finding by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that a series of complaints against Malema did not amount to hate speech did not vindicate the firebrand EFF leader.

READ MORE: How ‘problematic’ Malema dodged another hate speech bullet

“The problem with SA is we tend to outsource morality to institutions. What Malema espouses is hate, and no one should be in any doubt about that. And it is hate for minorities. And it is dangerous. You don’t need an SAHRC finding to know that, or to act against it,” Van Onselen tweeted.

A Twitter user tweeting under the name Paul Mokotedi replied that he wouldn’t “be surprised if all who are against the ruling of the [SAHRC] are racists themselves”.

People should “understand that we have racists in our country” and if you aren’t one of them you should “shut up”, the user continued.

This prompted Zille to respond: “Julius Malema is definitely at the forefront of racism in SA.”

The SAHRC on Wednesday told Radio 2000 that it was “aware of the backlash that is expected to come following its findings on the alleged hate speech by EFF leader Julius Malema today”.

The body’s spokesperson Gail Smith, meanwhile, said: “Those who do not agree with our findings can take them to court for review.”

This was echoed by SAHRC CEO Tseliso Thipanyane, who said: “The commission does its work without fear or favour. It makes its findings according to law. Members of the public who feel aggrieved by the findings can approach the courts for review.”

While the SAHRC found that five complaints against Malema and the EFF could not legally be considered to be hate speech, it called the comments “problematic”, with Thipanyane calling on “all South Africans to be careful of utterances they make”.

The commissioned hoped South Africans would “conduct themselves in a culture of human rights”, Thipanyane said.

The commission’s Dr Shanelle van der Berg went into detail regarding the complaints lodged against Malema and the EFF at a media briefing on Wednesday.

Regarding a complaint that Malema had called for the slaughter of white people, 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.

READ MORE: Malema’s comments not hate speech – SAHRC

Malema said that white people would not be killed under his leadership, Van Der Berg noted.

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”.

Another complaint related to a tweet from EFF General Secretary Godrich Gardee, in which he referred to Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane as a “garden boy”.

The commission found that while the comment was “insulting and offensive” it was not hate speech.

Both people share the same status as members of parliament and context was applied in terms of race and historical background, the commission said.

“Spaces must be created for vulnerable groups to air their anger and frustrations over continued lack of resources,” Van Der Berg said.

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