Durban - Former president Jacob Zuma’s controversial son Edward Zuma has been fined R60000 for hate speech, and been told to issue a signed apology to the two senior ANC leaders he targeted.
The Equality Court in Durban also imposed some restrictions on Zuma in a case brought by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
In June last year, Zuma wrote an open letter attacking Derek Hanekom, now the tourism minister, and Pravin Gordhan, now the minister of public enterprises, for their stance against his father.
Zuma arrived in court on Tursday accompanied by three attorneys, Simphiwe Mncwango, Ayanda Mkhwanazi and Sizwe Khanyile. But he and Mncwango left before the proceedings started after they had told magistrate Irfaan Khalil that Zuma had other commitments to attend to.
Initially, the SAHRC wanted Zuma to be fined R100 000 and the money donated to the needy Umthombo Secondary School in Howick.
However, after Zuma had admitted to have acted wrongly, both parties settled on a R60 000 fine, which would be split in half to be donated to both the SAHRC’s chosen Ohlange High School in Inanda, north of Durban, and Umthombo.
In the letter, Zuma had accused Gordhan of selling the country to business tycoon Johann Rupert.
He also accused the former finance minister of being “one of the most corrupt cadres of the ANC who thinks African natives are no better than just being sugar cane cutters who must be forever subservient to a master like him for sustenance”.
Zuma said in the letter: “Gordhan as Gandhi sees black African natives as a low caste; k*****s who are subhuman and deserve no status beyond that definition.” Zuma also wrote that Hanekom was a “white Afrikaner askari” and a “white monopoly capitalist offspring - who showed us his true colours - and how the struggle of our people has been infiltrated by enemies - the racist-paternalistic minority”.
Neither Gordhan nor Hanekom took action against Zuma, but SAHRC chairperson Bongani Majola said it had gone to court on behalf of society with the aim of “promoting the protection, development and attainment of human rights”.
KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial task team co-ordinator Sihle Zikalala welcomed the court decision, saying that Zuma’s statement was reckless in the eyes of the ANC and society. “We must not be reckless, and we must not border on hate speech,” said Zikalala.
When asked if the ANC would take further action against Zuma, Zikalala said the party would study the SAHRC statement on the matter, and “only then we will comment on that”.
Last August Zuma yielded to ANC pressure to apologise to Hanekom and Gordhan, which was followed by a party statement saying “the ANC expresses its sincere gratitude to comrade Edward for respecting and subjecting himself to the political discipline of the organisation”.
Reading the settlement agreement, Khalil said Zuma’s comment amounted to hate speech.
He said Zuma should issue an unconditional apology within seven days. He also interdicted Zuma from publishing, propagating, advocating or communicating hate speech.
SAHRC KwaZulu-Natal manager Tanuja Munnoo said the ruling was a lesson that freedom of expression should not be used irresponsibly.
She said Zuma had undermined the constitutional vision of building a united democratic society.
“In the words and language contained in the letter, such as the word ‘askari’, we have no doubts that the word carries hatred on the basis of race and constitutes incitement to harm,” she said.
She added that once Zuma had signed the unconditional apology he had to forward it to the SAHRC.
“Then we will undertake to publish it through our website, and even put it out as a media statement for the public domain,” she said.
Gordhan and Hanekom said they would only comment once the SAHRC published the apology, while Zuma and his lawyers declined to comment.