Julius Malema, the outspoken youth leader of the African National Congress, has been found guilty of “hate speech” for singing the song “Shoot the Boer,” which refers to white farmers.
In his judgment at Johannesburg’s South Gauteng high court, Judge Colin Lamont, said: “No justification exists allowing the words to be sung” warning that, “the words of one person inciting others – that is how a genocide can start”.
Judge Lamont said the song had no place in the new South Africa. “People must develop new customs in an open society by giving up old practices that are hurtful to the people who share it with them,” he said.
The case was brought by Afrikaner rights group AfriForum after Mr Malema persisted in singing the anti-apartheid song at rallies, despite a court interdict refraining him.
The 30-year-old populist and other ANC leaders had argued that the song was a celebration of the fight against minority rule.
AfriForum said it was “overjoyed” by the ruling. “It sends a clear message to Malema that he isn’t above the law and that he cannot sow divisions wherever he goes,” the group’s chairman, Kallie Kriel said. The Transvaal Agricultural Union, the farmers’ union, also welcomed the judgment as a step in its campaign for a special police unit to deal with farm attacks. The union claims that more white farmers in South Africa fall victim to racial murders every year than in Zimbabwe.
Since becoming president of the youth league in 2008, Mr Malema has repeatedly called for the expropriation of white-owned land and the nationalisation of mines and banks.
Mr Malema, who was ordered to pay costs, was not in court to hear the verdict. The mainstream ANC said it was “appalled” at the judgment. “We view this judgment as an attempt to rewrite South African history. This ruling flies against the need to accept our past and to preserve our heritage,” said ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu.
“Shoot the Boer” was first sung by the Pan Africanist Congress in the late 1980s. It was adopted by the ANC Youth League in 1993, after the murder of Communist Party leader Chris Hani.
The ruling is the latest in a string of setbacks for Mr Malema.
Until recently, he was a strong supporter of President Jacob Zuma but the men appear to have fallen out. Now Mr Malema paints himself as a revolutionary in a party that has turned capitalist. The ANC has counter-attacked by launching a disciplinary hearing against him and five youth league colleagues on charges of sowing division and bringing the party into disrepute.
At the weekend Mr Malema used a rally in a Johannesburg township to lay down the gauntlet to President Zuma, saying: “This is a war. In a war, never expect red roses, and in a war there are casualties. But we can guarantee that we will win.”
Some people claim that suspending Mr Malema from the ANC at the end of the disciplinary hearings would be a risky tactic for the mainstream party, which fears the popularity of the youth league in impoverished townships.
However, there are reports that President Zuma’s allies have already earmarked a new youth leadership that will support his bid for a second term as party president in 2012.
Alex Duval Smith, The Independent