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By Sheena Adams
Some laughed, some gasped, and hundreds of others were seething with anger.
These reactions followed the broadcasting on 702 Talk Radio on Tuesday of two songs telling President Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela where to get off in the ugliest and most derogatory of terms.
The young author, Shane McCallaghan, now says the songs, written and performed in Afrikaans, were the product of a drunken party and "not meant to be taken seriously".
One song tells the president to "fok off" because he wants to take everything. It also says "kaffirs" had better beware because they rape farmers' wives and children. The other song labels Madiba as a "kaffir" who "spyker sy ma" (sleeps with his mother).
McCallaghan, who lives in Cape Town, is a professional comedian with the stage name of "Shane, sies jou vark" (Shane, sis you pig).
"This whole thing has just gone haywire. The song was recorded three years ago at a party in Bapsfontein (north-east of Johannesburg) after I had had a few drinks. But I am not a racist, I am a normal person like everyone else," he said, adding that he would prefer it if people just "ignore the songs completely".
"I feel very bad about those songs. No one (besides the people at the party) was supposed to hear them. I want to apologise for them."
McCallaghan's apologies, however, may be futile. Nazeem Mahatey, Mbeki's spokesperson, said on Tuesday night he hoped the Human Rights Commission would take up the matter of "hate speech". "The songs are disgusting, out of order and not part of the new South Africa."
Professor Themba Sono, president of the SA Institute of Race Relations and also a Democratic Alliance legislator in Gauteng, said while the songs no doubt posed a serious barrier to reconciliation, people should recognise that we live in a free country.
"We must not try to control the thoughts and attitudes of people. We must just deal with actions that infringe on the rights of others," he said.
Director Henriette Bester of the police service said McCallaghan could be charged with crimen injuria or defamation of character.