Off the hook

2008-07-05 00:00

In a country that records 50 murders a day it is hard to accept that the word “kill” can have an innocent meaning. In recent years, too, much of the killing has been politically motivated, making the use of the word in a political context all the more dangerous. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has, however, accepted the assurance from ANC Youth League president Julius Malema that his recent “kill for Zuma” statement was not meant literally and that he will never again use the word in a public statement. Many will feel that this exoneration, without the apology that was previously required, is a limp response, but it may be that Malema, relatively inexperienced and presumably steeped in the ANCYL’s often intemperate rhetoric, intended the word to be interpreted metaphorically. It remains a dangerous word to use. Considering events both here and elsewhere in Africa, it is wise to reflect how readily the divisions in society can fracture and, exacerbated by ill-judged language or deliberate incitement, erupt into hatred, xenophobia and even genocide. Malema may be off the hook for now (although the DA plans to press ahead with criminal charges), but the ANC leadership needs to take him aside quietly and underscore the responsibilities that go with his office in the Youth League. Similarly, the SAHRC has chosen to be conciliatory in this instance, but it does need to hold a firm line when the people’s right to live in a safe and peaceable democratic state is compromised.

“Robust debate” has its place, but it must always be couched in language appropriate to a democratic context.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.