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R42,000 fine for Mazibuye pair guilty of anti-Indian hate speech

A judge has fined two men R42,000 for saying Indians, including Mahatma Gandhi, exploited Africans and were responsible for Africans' poor economic conditions.
A judge has fined two men R42,000 for saying Indians, including Mahatma Gandhi, exploited Africans and were responsible for Africans' poor economic conditions.
Image: Thinkstock

Two members of the KwaZulu-Natal African-consciousness pressure group, the Mazibuye African Forum, have been ordered to pay a joint fine of R42,000.

This comes after they were found guilty earlier this year of hate speech for "anti-Indian" comments they made in widely published interviews.

The money has to be paid to a Richards Bay-based organisation, Isibani Sethemba - which assists impoverished and vulnerable communities - by the end of October, otherwise they can be held in contempt of court.

Zweli Sangweni, the head of the organisation, and Phumulani Mfeka, who subsequently resigned from it, claimed that Indians, including Mahatma Gandhi, were racist and were responsible for exploiting Africans and for their poor economic conditions.

They were taken to Durban’s Equality Court by the Human Rights Commission and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation where they stuck to their guns, saying they were "telling the truth" and were "fearless truth tellers and crusaders on a mission to expose and speak the truth to power".

This lack of remorse, Equality Court magistrate John Sanders said on Monday, was why he had chosen to impose a "most punitive sanction".

"It is perfectly true that the law makes provision for the court to order that an unconditional apology be made. But this is only appropriate where such an apology is genuine, entirely sincere and heartfelt.

"Nothing during these proceedings has given this court the slightest indication that they are in any sense apologetic. Nor do they have the slightest regret for their actions. From their perspective, the Codesa, the constitution, the ANC, the SA Human Rights Commission, equality legislation and this court are all wrong.

"They claim they alone have a monopoly on truth."

He said any apology would be "entirely vacuous, hollow and utterly worthless" and would only demean the court and the victims of their hate speech.

This matter would not result in a "new dawn" or a change in attitude.

"This court has no other option but to send out a very clear message to them and those like minded, that the constitution cannot be flouted with impunity."

The magistrate said while he accepted that they were not well off, he did not believe they were men of straw.

"They are self-confessed activists, they travel all over the city and the province. It is highly probable that they have some independent source of income.

"However, I do not believe that the legislature ever intended to effectively sentence a person to a life of perpetual poverty," he said, ordering that they jointly pay the fine to the chosen beneficiary of the commission and the foundation.

He also interdicted them from uttering any hate speech, based on race, targeting the Indian community.

At the hearing, the main witness for the complainants was commission chairperson Bongani Majola, who said hate speech was so serious - and had been the trigger for the Rwandan genocide - that it must never be allowed to fester or go unchallenged.

In his judgment in April, magistrate Sander said nobody could ignore laws on the basis that they disagreed with them.

"Hate speech is not constitutionally protected, precisely because it strikes at the heart of human dignity, equality and freedom, and has the potential to impinge adversely on the dignity of others and to cause harm."

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