An innocent chant or threat to Afrikaners?

malema equality INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS ANCYL president Julius Malema flanked by heavily armed security guards with semi- automatic rifles outside the Johannesburg High Court during the hearings on whether the singing of Dubul ibhunu was a case of hate speech. Photo: Antoine de Ras

Earlier this year, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema faced a battle of a different kind – hate speech charges laid by lobby group AfriForum and the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU SA) for his singing of Dubul’ ibhunu (“Shoot the Boer”).

With Judge Colin Lamont scheduled to rule on the case today, Kristen van Schie reviews what happened inside the Johannesburg High Court.

The AfriForum Case

In court, AfriForum took a literal approach to the infamous lyrics.

Dubul’ ibhunu, they said, literally meant “Shoot the Boer”. Another translated line: “They are scared, the cowards. You should shoot the Boer. They rob, these dogs.”

“Boer,” they argued, referred either to Afrikaners or farmers. Malema was a public and influential leader, openly singing lyrics that incited violence towards an ethnic group, which constituted hate speech.

While on the stand, AfriForum deputy chief executive Ernst Roets described an alleged veiled threat by Malema when they met to discuss a protest AfriForum was planning over the song. “He said that if we protested, there would be a repetition of what happened to the IFP members outside Shell House in 1994.”

Music lecturer Dr Anne-Marie Gray said Dubul’ ibhunu wasn’t even a song, but a chant, which created a “trance-like” atmosphere.

“A chant is when words keep on being repeated, and is accompanied by toyi-toying, and there are gestures that makes a person a bit uncomfortable,” she said. “It is much more aggressive and threatening… It almost sweeps you off your feet. It makes you want to do something.”

The Tau SA Case

TAU SA took a different tack. True, the constitution set the intent to cause harm or incite violence as a criterion for hate speech. But according to the Equality Act, they argued, intent had nothing to do with it. Instead, it was how the message was perceived by the victims.

“It’s about the reaction of the target group, the infringement of their right,” said lawyer Roelof du Plessis SC. “It doesn’t matter what the ANC says it means by ‘boer’ if I understand that to be directed at me.”

TAU assistant chief executive General Chris van Zyl said the phrase made him feel targeted as a member of a specific community.

Criminologist Professor Christiaan Bezuidenhout described the powerful influence of music. “If you take a young person… grown up in a marginalised situation, poor and unemployed, and goes to a rally and hears the chants that say ‘kill’ or ‘shoot’, that can contribute to their thinking.”

The ANC Case

Standing firmly by Malema, ANC lawyers argued that the contentious lyrics were taken completely out of context. The word ibhunu or even “boer” did not refer to Afrikaners, but to the system of apartheid.

Poet Wally Serote said it was always understood that “boer” referred to the institution.

“It is African culture to sing,” he said. “You must remember that Bantu Education ‘de-educated’ our people. We had to find a manner in which people could understand what was happening in South Africa.

Afrikaner Derek Hanekom, an ANC MP, insisted he did not feel threatened by the lyrics, and that he knew “boer” was code for the apartheid government’s security apparatus.

… and the man himself

Malema was the final person called to the stand. Funny, confident, he had the gallery enchanted. He loved white people, and white people loved him. “When I go walking in the shops, white people are always approaching me for photos and autographs,” he laughed.

He didn’t sing the songs to rub Afrikaners up the wrong way.

But under an abrasive cross-examination, he grew irritable, self-defensive and paranoid. He was being isolated for media coverage. The courts were under the control of “dark forces in the night”. Farms should be taken without compensation, he said. - The Star

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Sinies, wrote

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11:00am on 12 September 2011
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Look at the statistics (Not important enough to be kept seperately by the ANC minister), the ANC is murderous at hart! It is pre meditated genocide.

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Magszinovich, wrote

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10:56am on 12 September 2011
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If Malema is so innocent, why is he cowering behind 6 bodyguards with machine guns? That type of protection is reserved for heads of state, not for people like him!

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Art, wrote

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10:52am on 12 September 2011
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How can a chant be innocent if it threatens to kill?

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Graham F, wrote

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10:47am on 12 September 2011
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Mantashe is trying to convince that "Shoot the Boer" is a cry against economic repression! How many ANCYL hangers on mean that when they sing it? There is no place for such songs in a democratic South Africa. Someone on the radio today said it is the 34th(?) aniversary of the death in detention of Biko. What they did not is that this shocking deed and embarrassment to the National Party was revealed to the world by Helen Zille.

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Deon Olivier, wrote

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10:43am on 12 September 2011
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Has anybody noticed how the attacks have diminished since the "chanting " has stopped??????? or are the media just not reporting on Boer murders anymore

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dugsbaws, wrote

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10:44am on 12 September 2011
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Forget about History, and put your efforts and songs out for the present and the future.

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:42am on 12 September 2011
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The picture is more disturbing than anything else written her. How do supposed "bodyguards" get access to automatic weapons? It is illegal for anyone other that the military or the police. Why are they being allowed to carry them openly like this?

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Fed up tax payer, wrote

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10:42am on 12 September 2011
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If he is not scared (as he claims according to media reports) and he is NOT a public figure - as media reports, then why oh why does he need a small army surrounding him toting semi automatic weapons. I am sure if I or anyone I know walked around armed to the teeth like this, I would be arrested.

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:36am on 12 September 2011
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"Whites are criminals", remember?

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makesuthink , wrote

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10:34am on 12 September 2011
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The chant Dubul ibhunu is as offensive to a lot of whites as the "k" word if offensive to blacks make the punishment the same for both

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Sakhile, wrote

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10:32am on 12 September 2011
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They must just find him guilty and lock him up if possible. How can he say he will get ppl to march to the stock exchange to demand money, jobs, and whatever and then go toy toy at the parliament? They must toy toy for better education, against kids who have sex instead of going to school, toy toy against blacks who are drop outs at varsities etc etc! Look at those people leading us in the youth league! Mnxm...

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Eugene, wrote

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10:26am on 12 September 2011
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Strike the Striker

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mustang, wrote

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10:23am on 12 September 2011
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Malema you are so brave, all those guns to protect you. Just remember its only a matter of time and your mouth will be shut for you.

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:13am on 12 September 2011
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Now I wonder how "Shoot the boer" is any better than using the K word... I think people need to wake up and smell the coffee in the country... what goes around comes around....

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Legend, wrote

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10:08am on 12 September 2011
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I say to the good people....if you can get out of South Africa....then don't hesitate, just get out....the light at the end of the tunnel....well there's no light at the end of the tunnel because SA is going the same path as Zimbabwe.

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:03am on 12 September 2011
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A "chant" which creates a "trance-like" atmosphere is coldly, deliberately calculated to erase the normal moral sensibilities and to unlock the vile murderous beast beneath.

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another mouse, wrote

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10:02am on 12 September 2011
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This chant may have been part of the liberation struggle, and it will always be a part of our history. But everyone has to make concessions in the New South Africa, and this is one the ANC should make. It has no place in the New South Africa.

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:53am on 12 September 2011
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Who is paying for Malema's lawyers? Could it be the white taxpayer?.

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:52am on 12 September 2011
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last time i checked personal body guards werent alowed to carry firearms of that calliber in public, they are goons.

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:52am on 12 September 2011
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I propose a new song - "shoot the Malema!"

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