Cosatu’s Masuku guilty of hate speech

2009-12-04 11:03


The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has upheld a complaint of

hate speech against Bongani Masuku, the international relations spokesperson for

the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

The complaint, lodged by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) on

March 26 this year, was based on various threatening, inflammatory and

derogatory statements made by Masuku against the mainstream South African Jewish

community and its leadership.

SAJBD national chair Zev Krengel said the ruling had reaffirmed the

zero-tolerance attitude towards any form of hate speech that underpinned the

country’s democratic culture. As such, it should be seen as a victory for all

South Africans.

“While instances of racist and inflammatory rhetoric directed

against sectors of society will inevitably occur from time to time, it is

encouraging to see that this country has in place effective mechanisms to deal

with them.

We applaud the SAHRC for sending out a clear message that the right

to freedom of expression does not include a license to indulge in hate speech

and incitement” he said.

The SAJBD’s complaint detailed how Masuku, in a public address at

Wits University on March 5, as well as in various written communications, had

repeatedly threatened that Jewish South Africans would be targeted because of

their support for Israel.

This included statements that Jewish lives would be

made ‘hell’, that vigilante action would be taken against Jewish families

suspected of having members serving in the Israeli military, and that Jews who

continued to stand up for Israel should “not just be encouraged but forced to

leave South Africa“.

In its ruling, the SAHRC noted the following:

[Masuku’s] comments and statements made are of an extreme nature

that advocate and imply that the Jewish and Israeli community are to be

despised, scorned, ridiculed and thus subjecting them to ill-treatment on the

basis of their religious affiliation.

A prima facie case of hate speech is

clearly established as the statements and comments by Masuku are offensive and

unpalatable to society.

The SAHRC requested Masuku to tender an apology to the SAJBD within

14 days, failing which the matter would be referred to the relevant Equality

Court for final adjudication without further notice to him.

Krengel said that

although the SAJBD was prepared to go to court, he hoped that an appropriate

apology from Masuku would make this unnecessary.

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