Trial of KZN men charged with hate speech against Indians stalled again

2017-02-27 13:46
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Durban - A high-profile Indian hate speech case before Durban’s Equality Court - which was supposed to begin on Monday - has been stalled again.

The matter was set down for trial to be heard before Magistrate John Sander.

But the two men accused of inciting racial hatred, Zweli Sangweni and Phumlani Mfeka - both members of the African-consciousness pressure group Mazibuye African Forum - have indicated that they are still not ready to go to trial and need more time to brief attorneys.

"They are just stalling," a source close to the case said. "The matter has now been set down for a pre-trial conference in May."

Complaint

In their complaint lodged with the court, the Human Rights Commission and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation want Sangweni and Mfeka to apologise and pay a fine of R50 000, to go to an orphanage.

This is for statements they made in newspaper articles and a newsletter to the effect that Indians, including Mahatma Gandhi, were racist and were responsible for exploiting Africans and for their poor economic conditions.

This is the second time the matter has been set down for trial.

Last year, after agreeing to a trial date, neither men came to court. Their attorney asked to withdraw, saying he had not been able to contact them and that they had not attended scheduled consultations.

Constitutional law expert Professor Karthy Govender, who is representing the HRC, then accused them of "treating the process with disdain" - a view shared by the magistrate.

'Likely to incite hatred'

In his affidavit, HRC provincial manager Tanuja Munnoo said that based on the complaints received about the statements, there was "considerable concern" that they were "likely to incite hatred".

The two men responded to letters sent to them by the HRC by saying that this was an "un-African" method of dispute resolution, and asked that the matter be referred from court to a "more appropriate platform".

Sangweni denied his utterances were hate speech, saying they should be seen in a present and historical context.

"We are just voicing what people are saying," he said.

The Access to Justice Association of SA has come out in support of them, saying they are civil rights advocates.

Chief executive Sheena St Clair Jonker said: "Their issues are not born out of racial hatred, but rather out of the close-up and daily firsthand experience of the ongoing dire suffering of African people in KZN, where, because of the demographics, the employment structures are largely Indian."

Read more on:    sahrc  |  durban  |  racism

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