Freedom of speech should not incite hate

2014-10-12 06:00

Imagine for a moment a white Afrikaans person publishing a song in which black people are repeatedly chanted to be “k*****s”.

The artist calls former president Nelson Mandela a terrorist, claims that black people are garbage criminals and that this thuggishness is embedded in their bloodline. To top it off, he calls for the burning down of black settlements and even illustrates how this should be done in a music video.

Feel free to argue, but I am certain there would be a national outrage. AfriForum would take action against it, and as a white person, I would feel insulted and repudiate myself from such a racist.

I cannot help but wonder whether the new song and music video by a coloured South African, in which similar statements are made towards white South Africans, would invoke the same reaction.

Music and art have always been excellent tools for expressing anger and encouraging political change.

In the song, the listener is encouraged to burn down the farms of a fictional character called “Farmer Abrahams.”

He then repeatedly uses one of the two most derogatory words in the Afrikaans language (the other starting with a “K”) to curse white people.

While freedom of speech is considered to be a cornerstone of democracy, in South Africa there are limitations to this right. The reason is that South Africa has a recent history of racial conflict and that social cohesion has not yet settled as it should have. The right to freedom of expression is limited and does not extend to propaganda for war, hate speech and incitement to violence.

This artist obviously has the right to express his anger at political issues through his music. He even has the right to embarrass himself by making a series of grossly factual incorrect statements about our past. What isn’t acceptable though, is the fact that the song is in violation of the Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act and that his statements are not protected by the Constitution.

Despite what the law states and that AfriForum intends taking action against the “artist”, there are larger political issues at play.

There is a saying that you lose the argument the moment you lose your temper. The same goes for music and politics. While the artist could have used this opportunity to make a proper argument, he chose to resort to racist populism. In the process, he not only lost the argument right from the get go – he committed a grave injustice towards the plight of black and coloured South Africans.

While this person is out to make money through populism, farmers are being murdered and tortured in disproportionate numbers, as was evident during the recent public hearings on farm murders hosted by the SA Human Rights Commission.

I sincerely hope that the coloured community will take a firm stand against a person like this to prevent the perception that an individual like this speaks on their behalf.

» Roets is deputy CEO of AfriForum

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