[notice]Looking at the recent controversal court ruling that the singing of Julius Malema’s anthem “Shoot The Boer” constitutes hate speech, Port Elizabeth pastor, Afrika Mhlophe, explores the fine line between what is legal and what is ethical.[/notice]
Much has been made of the judgement handed down by the Equality Court Judge, Colin Lamont. Judge Lamont found Julius Malema guilty of hate speech in singing of the song, “Dubula ibhulu – Shoot the Boer.” Like President Jacob Zuma’s “Umshini Wam,” Dubula ibhulu had become Malema’s personal anthem. He has been singing this song on many public platforms and encouraging others to do the same. Since handing down his ground-breaking judgment, Judge Lamont has been subject to a lot of criticism from politicians, unionists, analysts and whoever cares to throw a disparaging remark in the direction of this bold judge. This judge ruled that singing this song in public or in private constitutes hate speech and it is clear then that whoever continues singing this song will be guilty of contempt of court. Alas, as a show of rebellion others sang it immediately after the judgment was handed down.
The argument of those who support the singing of this song is that this song is part of our history and heritage and therefore it should not be banned. They further argue that the banning of this song violates freedom of speech. Aha, there is the issue of rights vs. responsibilities. Does it mean if something is legal, it is also ethical? For instance, there has been a public outcry regarding the luxurious expenditure of the current crop of ministers and public representatives. In their defence they all point to the Ministerial Handbook which ostensibly allows them to drive around in vehicles costing over a million rand, spend thousands in hotel stays, etc. The problem is, this handbook is confidential so you and I cannot know what it does and does not allow. Well, the real problem is whether or not it is morally justifiable to spend so much in a country that has so little.
Politicians are not known for their morals. In fact the most popular ones in our country today have gained notoriety for their lack of morals. People claim that morals are subjective and therefore cannot be part of the legal framework and this is why people can claim innocence even though their conduct is morally reprehensible. When the law exonerates them they quickly take the moral high ground. Perceptions do not matter but what matters is whether or not you can afford the best legal minds this country can produce. There are many who have literally gotten away with murder because they can afford to. It is comforting then, I suppose, to know that there is another court where all of all us will one day account to.
Now going back to the issue of this song. I agree that this song is part of the liberation struggle black people fought in this country. The singing of songs during the fight against apartheid was important in fostering hope and unity among the oppressed. This phenomenon can even be traced to the spiritual songs that black slaves sang while working in American plantations and other oppressive environments. Our history should not be erased but should be archived for future referencing. This song played a specific role at a specific time in our country’s history. This song does not play the same role any more but now simply polarises an already fractured nation. In his recent organisation report, the Secretary General of the ANC, Mr Gwede Mantashe bemoans the miniscule support that his party gets from white people. To be honest, if I was a white person I would find it hard to lend my support to the ANC. The abhorrent words that come from the party’s current leaders would make me feel unsafe and unsure about my future and that of my children.
It is comforting to know that the founding president of the new South Africa, Dr Nelson Mandela and his predecessor, President Thabo Mbeki were not singing presidents. They never sang so they never could be accused of singing inappropriate songs. They spoke and in their speeches we could see a prosperous South Africa. Moeletsi Mbeki, the political analyst and brother to the former president Thabo Mbeki calls the current crop of leaders the “song and dance brigade.” He decries their lack of leadership depth. I suppose then that it is this lack that people are camouflaging and compensating for in their populist rhetoric