Cosatu 'disappointed' at Equality Court ruling on Masuku

Johannesburg - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has said it is disappointed that the Equality Court found its international relations spokesperson Bongani Masuka guilty of hate speech.

Masuku was found guilty of hate speech on Thursday morning, in the Equality Court sitting in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

Cosatu's organising secretary Theodore Steele said they would study the judgment before taking any further steps.

"We are very disappointed with the outcome. We will study the judgment while the [Palestine] campaign continues," Steele said.

"We are going to intensify the campaign of awareness so that the broader public understands what is happening in Palestine [and that they] understand [that] women and children are killed daily and [that they] understand that at times there will be emotional responses."

Threats

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) were squaring off with Masuku and Cosatu over comments that he made during a lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand, which was hosted by the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Young Communist League.

The statements, which were made in 2009, were mainly to students on campus, which included Jewish, Zionists and Palestinian supporters. The SAJBD lodged the complaint against him.

The SAJBD's complaint detailed how Masuku, in a public address at Wits University, as well as in various written communications, threatened that Jewish South Africans would be targeted because of their support for Israel.

He also reportedly said that Jews who continued to stand up for Israel should "not just be encouraged, but forced to leave South Africa".

The court ordered that Masuku apologise within 30 days of the order or within a period to which the parties agreed.

"The impugned statements are declared hurtful, harmful, incite harm, and propagate hatred, and amount to hate speech... " Judge Seun Moshidi said.

In his judgment, Moshidi said an order for an "unconditional apology is by no means lenient, and should not be viewed in the light of the proverbial slap on the wrist".

He said the apology remained vital to victims of hate speech.

Moshidi said Masuku's statements were found to be hateful and hurtful.

SAJBD's national director Wendy Kahn said they welcomed the court's judgment.

Kahn said threats and insults against Jews who support Israel could not be justified on the alleged basis that such attacks are aimed not at Jews but at "Zionists".

She said she hoped Masuku would apologise to the Jewish community.

Masuku and Cosatu were ordered to pay legal costs.

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