Cosatu’s Masuku guilty of hate speech

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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