Celebrations after Malema ruling
Johannesburg - ANC youth leader Julius Malema was convicted of hate speech and harassment on Monday, a ruling that was celebrated with "Malema is a Mickey Mouse" songs outside court.
"Mr Malema, being a man of vast political influence, be wary of turning into a man that often speaks but never talks," said magistrate Colleen Collis, quoting from the 19th century writer Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Speaking in a clipped voice in the Johannesburg Equality Court, Collis said Malema's statement that President Jacob Zuma's rape accuser had a "nice time", was irresponsible, superfluous and demeaning to women.
"This court is satisfied that the utterances by the respondent amounted to hate speech," she said to a court room packed with lawyers and journalists, but with no sign of the ANC Youth League leader.
Demeans, humiliates women
"It clearly demeans and humiliates women... The respondent has infringed on the rights of women," said Collis, dressed in a smart black pin-striped suit.
She started her judgment with a quote by English author Samuel Butler (1835-1902), who said: "Words are the clothes that thoughts wear - only the clothes."
Collis found Malema guilty of the main charge of hate speech and an alternative count of harassment, brought by the Sonke Gender Justice Network.
"The uttered words constitute harassment as contemplated in the Equality Act," said Collis.
Malema was ordered to apologise unconditionally within two weeks of the judgment day and pay R50 000 within a month to People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa), a shelter for abused women.
Malema earlier testified that he had said: "When a woman didn't enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money."
He made the comment while addressing 150 Cape Peninsula University of Technology students last January in the pre-election period.
Collis said Malema testified in the Equality Court that he was referring to sex and to Zuma's rape accuser.
But Malema argued that his audience did not take offence to the statement.
However, Collis said: "The words were uttered at a political rally... by a prominent leader.
"The respondent is an influential figure on whose utterances are widely reported... he was also addressing the wider public. He should have been mindful of that."
Also, Malema argued that the comment was "fair" because he was referring to the ruling in which Zuma was acquitted of the rape charge.
But Collis said Malema's statement was still inaccurate and that Zuma's rape accuser never asked him for breakfast or taxi money.
"He (Malema) was relying on his memory. He has never taken the trouble to read the judgment."
At that stage in the judgment, Malema's lawyer, Tumi Mokwena, who had been leaning back in his chair, sat upright and started taking notes.
Mokwena later said he respected the judgment and would get instructions from his client on whether to appeal.
Collis went further to say it was "superfluous" of Malema to have commented on the Zuma rape case at the Cape Peninsula University gathering.
She said a reasonable person would consider Malema's words to cause either hurt, harm or incite hatred, which is the definition of hate speech, according to Section 10 of the Equality Act.
Harassment is defined as something that creates a hostile and intimidating environment, also in gender terms, said Collis.
The Constitution supports freedom of expression but not if it incites violence or advocates hatred, she added.
Celebration outside court
Outside the court, Sonke supporters sang "Malema is a Mickey Mouse" in celebration of the court victory.
Sonke Gender Justice Network spokesperson Mbuyiselo Botha said the group felt vindicated by the ruling.
"This case makes it clear that our country's leaders need to be more responsible in their public statements and that civil society can and will hold them accountable.
"We hope that this ruling will alert public figures to the potential repercussions of their words, both in terms of the impact that public statements can have in perpetuating gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination, and in terms of the legal implications."
Lisa Vetten, a counsellor and researcher in violence against women, of the Tshwaranang Legal Advice Centre, said the ruling was important to break down myths and stereotypes about women.
"I hope this decision is part of a much-needed sea change of how we think about women," said Vetten.
Sonke supporter Joyce Dlamini, 27, said she used to support Malema but that she felt like he had let her down.
"He needs to be leading by example," she told Sapa outside the court.
"We were singing that Malema doesn't know what he wants. He's got a big, loud mouth but he's a Mickey Mouse."
Malema's spokesperson, Floyd Shivambu, was not immediately reachable for comment.