Julius Malema's 'dead white man' tweet is hate speech, says SAHRC

Julius Malema's comments on Twitter will be referred to the equality court and the SAHRC will also investigate the EFF's ban on media organisations amaBhungane and the Daily Maverick from their events.
Julius Malema's comments on Twitter will be referred to the equality court and the SAHRC will also investigate the EFF's ban on media organisations amaBhungane and the Daily Maverick from their events.
Image: Alon Skuy

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Tuesday condemned recent comments attributed to EFF leader Julius Malema — at least at first sight — as amounting to hate speech. 

They were referring to a video shared on his Twitter feed in which he paid tribute to the late former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. 

The tweet, published on September 14 with the words “Rest in power #GUSHUNGO”  featured a video with quotes by Mugabe. “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man,” read one of the quotes alongside a picture of Mugabe.

Malema later shared a message, accompanied by the words “Stratcom #GUSHUNGO”,  from Twitter, saying it had “investigated the reported content and could not identify any violations of the Twitter Rules”.

Stratcom refers to dirty tricks or disinformation under the old apartheid regime.

The commission said on Tuesday that it was “deeply concerned by recent utterances attributed to Mr Julius Malema, a member of parliament and the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)".

“The commission is of the view that the social media utterances by Mr Malema around former President Robert Mugabe’s passing away, on a prima facie basis, amount to hate speech under section 10 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.”

“The SAHRC has on numerous occasions urged political leaders to recognise and take responsibility for the power they wield through their words. At the same time, the commission remains committed to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of expression. The right to free speech is protected as a basic human right, under section 16 of the constitution.”

“This right is, however, limited and hate speech is not protected under the right to freedom of expression.  The SAHRC condemns these racially divisive utterances, as they go against the non-racialist values upon which South Africa’s constitutional democracy is founded, and will therefore refer the matter to the Equality Court.” 

The commission said it would also probe a decision by the EFF to ban media organisations amaBhungane and the Daily Maverick from their events.

“Regarding the banning of certain media houses by Mr Malema and the EFF, the commission will investigate the possible violation of the right to freedom of expression under section 16(1) of the constitution,” the commission said. 

DA MPL Dr Roy Jankielsohn complained about the tweet to the Equality Court in Bloemfontein. 


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