Political hate speech

2008-11-24 00:00

This week the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will convene a national conference to address the issue of political intolerance in the coming election. It is a timely initiative. The greater Durban area has already witnessed two efforts by African National Congress supporters to disrupt meetings of the new Congress of the People (Cope). South African society is already violent, and there is every reason to fear that intemperate rhetoric could spark truly vicious political conflict.

This concern is underscored by the statement, published in this newspaper last week, in which committed activist Stephanie Kemp explains her decision to terminate her long-standing membership of the South African Communist Party and the ANC. Kemp lists instance after instance of behaviour and utterances from within the ruling alliance that not only contradict the principles of rational political discourse but actually threaten peace and stability. The most chilling are the words of the ANC member who said of Cope supporters: “They are cockroaches — we kill cockroaches.” It is the very word that ignited the genocide in Rwanda, and when someone as close to party structures as Kemp becomes alarmed, one has to believe that the repeated threat to kill cannot be explained away as hot-headed exaggeration but must be taken literally.

Similarly disturbing is the failure of the new ANC leadership to curb this inflammatory rhetoric and the incipient violence. There are some, including President Kgalema Motlanthe, who decry it, but party leader Jacob Zuma himself has done nothing to check the trend that has been gaining impetus for many months now.

Furthermore, it is not only political opponents who are targeted but also state institutions such as the courts and the judiciary. These assaults are criminal, and must be treated as such. The IEC’s conference is well and good, but words must lead to action. As has been done with the Aids ribbons, every single political leader needs to take a firm public stand against intolerance, and followers who step out of line must be immediately disciplined. There is a very fine distinction between condoning political intolerance and encouraging it, and the consequences could be truly horrific.

Join the conversation!

24.com 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.

24.com 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 24.com 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.