Johannesburg - Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mngxitama’s comments last week about killing white people will likely get him into hot water for hate speech but the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) says he has not contravened the Electoral Act.
During a rally for his party in Potchefstroom last weekend Mngxitama, the controversial leader of BLF, told his supporters that for every black person killed, five white people should be killed.
Mngxitama’s comments have been widely condemned by several political parties, including the ANC and the DA, as well as organisations such as AfriForum and Solidarity and there have been growing calls for the IEC to deregister the BLF.
IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said the commission viewed Mngixtama’s statement as hate speech.
Although campaigning for next year’s elections will start when the election date is proclaimed, Bapela said the electoral code of conduct only applies for the duration of the electoral period.
“The electoral commission does not have powers to take action against the BLF or its leader at this point in time within the parameters of the Electoral Act.
“The electoral commission has, however, issued a letter to the BLF’s secretary-general Yerushka Chetty. The letter, issued on Wednesday, demands that the party leader and the BLF immediately refrain from making statements which promote violence and hatred against any racial group,” Bapela said.
Lindsay Maasdorp, BLF spokesperson, said that it was an indication of a biased media that not even one media house had called out Johann Rupert for saying he was close to a taxi association that was his own army.
“Whenever we say one (black) to five (whites) you must know that this is a preventive measure to stop white people from instituting black on black violence and that’s the only way we can do it because the only time that white people begin to listen is when their own lives are in danger,” said Maasdorp.
He said that the BLF’s position was not up for discussion because it could not be that black lives were worthless and white lives meant more.
Professor Pierre de Vos, a constitutional law expert, said that hate speech is any speech that a reasonable person would think is intended to be hurtful to somebody based on their race.
“If a reasonable person thinks that speech is intended to hurt me because I’m white or black or because I’m a woman or a man or because I’m gay that would constitute hate speech. So the hate speech provision in the Equality Act is quite broad, which means this kind of speech will fall within that,” said De Vos.
He said Mngxitama’s utterances were aimed at attracting political attention, but they were dangerous because people who may not know him as a politician might act on it.
“While it is probably only intended to get some attention, it could end up having bad consequences as you see in the United States of America, where the utterances of President Donald Trump have led to critical attacks and bomb threats to the media,” De Vos said.
He said that once the date of next year’s general elections is announced a code of conduct, which is set to prevent such statements, would kick in so that the Electoral Court could punish political parties or people in those parties who do not behave accordingly.
Thabani Khumalo, a political analyst, said that Mngxitama’s comments were reckless and irresponsible and deserved the harshest punishment.
“The statement was insensitive, it does not add value to the future that South Africa is trying to build, a future that is united and there is reconciliation,” Khumalo said.
“The IEC needs to deliberate on whether a person who makes such utterances deserves to be on the ballot paper or not,” Khumalo said.