Civil rights initiative sees colour in matters they raise

AS IT concludes - with the defendant appealing the 12-month jail sentence and its R20000 option of a fine - you'd be forgiven for thinking the case against Judge Nkola Motata had been strictly about his fitness to hold office.

For the record, the drawn-out trial was about Motata, 62, crashing into the wall of Richard Baird's Hurlingham home on January 6 2007.

While the famous shot of him seated in his Jaguar provided circumstantial evidence of his state of sobriety - or lack thereof - magistrate Desmond Nair would later rule that the learned judge was indeed drunk.

That one night's encounter with fermented grapes has led to the loudest din outside court: for Motata to be removed from the bench.

The argument, by those who advance it, isn't that the North Gauteng high court judge is incapable of carrying out his duties but that, as Nair found, he was quarrelsome and difficult because he was drunk.

The authors of this argument are AfriForum, a Pretoria-based organisation described by its chief executive Kallie Kriel as a civil rights initiative the goal of which is to uphold the country's Constitution.

In an age when even misogynists are encouraged to refine their views about women and motormouth ANCYL president Julius Malema is implored at every turn not to see every issue in terms of black and white, AfriForum speak without fail for the white Afrikaner cause.

For an organisation that owes its being to the 130000-member strong trade union Solidarity, maybe it was to be expected that AfriForum would see colour in matters they choose to raise.

Those who do not speak Malema's language contend that placing the racism dialogue back on the public platform will take the Rainbow Nation a good number of years backwards but AfriForum is not averse to playing the race card themselves.

You'd be hard pressed to find comment from AfriForum condemning lion killer Mark Scott-Crossly, for example. They will not offer an opinion on his early release, which not only raised consternation among the Mpumalanga community of Hoedspruit where, on his orders, Nelson Chisale was thrown into a lion enclosure.

This newspaper has repeatedly run stories of how one Derrick James Steyn, who we dubbed Terror Farmer after his violent disposition towards farmworkers, was inexplicably let out on bail by Marius Serfontein, a magistrate who owns a farm near Steyn's.

AfriForum neither decried Steyn's assaults on his workers nor called for Serfontein to be disrobed.

Kriel says: "We're not going to react to everything. Many farmers are killed and we don't react."

Even if Motata were white, Kriel says, they'd have called for his head.

Serfontein still presides over cases in his Vaal fiefdom.

Not a whimper came from their quarters when a trio of young white bullies - the Waterkloof Three - flexed their muscles on a defenceless tramp and killed him.

No one knows what AfriForum thinks of Frikkie du Preez, Gert van Schalkwyk and Reinach Tiedt, who murdered a black man when they were just teenagers.

Pressed for what they take issue with in cases involving black and white relations, the office gives two examples, one bearing Kriel's signature.

While the whole country was horrified by the conduct of the Free State University students who urinated on food given to black staffers, AfriForum found the conduct of the culprits "inexcusable".

Perhaps the best AfriForum could hope for was protecting those not fingered. At the time Kriel "expressed the hope that the disturbing incident would not be misused to put all students of the UFS in a bad light".

The second, signed by Nantes Kelder, congratulated Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa for telling Parliament that "certain crimes have to be investigated by police members with specialist knowledge and expertise".

What is this if not making a case for apartheid police shunned by the new order?

"We condemned it on the day it happened," Kriel says about the Skielik shooting spree of young Johan Nel. "We even went to the funeral of the victims and we were well received."

Ten young members of the organisation were present at the airport to welcome Berlin gold medallist Caster Semenya, among them their youth wing leader Lelanie de Kok, who is at Tukkies with Semenya, Kriel says.

They took umbrage at the well-documented Malema faux pas that lamented the absence of whites since that was not a rugby squad homecoming.

They even made representations to the IAAF about the gender tests, Kriel says.

He says at the last count there were 8000 members who regularly pay a monthly stipend to AfriForum, including an aggrieved black man, a Mr Tshabalala, who "wanted to keep the judiciary independent".

Kriel is adamant that racism should be condemned wherever it rears its ugly head.

They are not a racist formation, he adds, only they will not speak out against every incident.