The ANC and Afriforum will present their settlement on the “Dubula iBhunu” (Shoot the Boer) song to the Supreme Court of Appeals on Thursday.
The party announced on Wednesday that following an agreement with AfriForum and the Transvaal Agricultural Union it had decided not to pursue its appeal against a court order that in effect bans singing of the controversial song.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said that members would have to restrain themselves from singing songs that might be hurtful to minority groups, even if it meant manipulating the lyrics of some songs.
The parties announced an out-of-court settlement that meant they would abandon their legal action against each other, to try to ease tensions around the singing of Struggle songs.
But the settlement was only one area where the parties agreed.
Divisions on many other issues between them were evident with a spat between Mantashe and agricultural union president Louis Meintjes during the announcement.
AfriForum and the agricultural union took then-ANC Youth League president Julius Malema to the Equality Court last year for singing the song, claiming it amounted to hate speech against white farmers. The court agreed, but the ANC appealed against the decision.
Malema was represented by Mantashe and ANC lawyer Lesley Mkhabela in the matter, as he was said to be writing exams.
According to the settlement, AfriForum and the agricultural union have agreed to abandon the Equality Court order handed down last year that would have meant a blanket ban of the song.
The ANC has in return agreed to abandon its appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, which was due to begin on Thursday. The ANC would also encourage its members to restrain themselves and not to use the song or other Struggle songs to attack or threaten minority groups, despite these songs being part of their heritage and Struggle history.
“The importance of this decision is also to educate society that litigation should be the last resort to solving any issues that we might have among us,” Mantashe said.
“We should be able to sit down and engage in meaningful dialogue.
“This settlement also helps to remove the impact of completely banning the song, and creates an opportunity to engage each other.
“The banning of the song would really have been unworkable. Members should instead adjust some of the lyrics to go forward and not backwards.”
The songs captured the mood and stages of the Struggle, but should not be used to hurt others, Mantashe said.
“If you listen to the songs that are being sung now, they capture the mood that we are now headed towards a policy conference, and this also applies to Struggle songs.”
AfriForum chief executive Kallie Kriel welcomed the settlement, saying it was better than the order handed down by the Equality Court.
“We have replaced the previous order with a better settlement because it allows us to continue having dialogue instead of an order that might be difficult to enforce.
“We are happy to have a political settlement. We have a situation where people realise that minority groups experience some slogans in a hurtful manner,” said Kriel.
The occasion to announce the settlement was almost overshadowed by a spat over the plight of South African farmers.
The tiff was evidence that although the parties had managed to agree on this particular issue, there remained deep-seated differences that might flare up in the future.
The intention had been to present a united front over the song after the settlement had been reached between the parties on Tuesday night, but the briefing almost turned sour when Mantashe clashed with Meintjes.
Mantashe told Meintjes, who was sitting a seat away from him, that the agricultural union should not push its luck with the ANC because of the settlement reached between the parties.
This was after Meintjes had suggested there was no exaggeration in statements that white farmers were leaving the country in droves because of fears instigated by the singing of songs like Dubul’ iBhunu.
“The environment of fear is still among farmers because of these kind of songs. This has shown that there are limits to freedom of speech when it becomes hate speech.
“The ANC realises that they must sit down with us,” said Meintjes, who then attracted a fierce rebuke from Mantashe.
“[The agricultural union] must not stretch its luck with the ANC. There is no group in South Africa which has a monopoly over anger or fear. You must engage the ANC with respect just like we also engage you with respect,” Mantashe told him.
Pretoria News, Sapa