South Africa has had its fair share of controversial songs since democracy. They have divided public sentiment and tested the law. Gugulethu Mhlungu and Siyabonga Sithole round them up.
Kaffir – Arthur Mafokate
Released in 1995, this song was the first big musical controversy of our new democracy.
The EP containing the track had four versions of the song and two variations of Daai Ding (which spoke out against those who shun Xitsonga speakers while also encouraging peace).
The song got tongues wagging, but was not met with outright criticism, though some stations refused to be associated with the track.
But it did what it was supposed to do – reclaim a racial slur and boost the kwaito project. It achieved sales in excess of 150?000 copies.
Nkosi Sikelel i’Africa – Boom Shaka
While our national anthem had been performed and recorded by other South African artists such as Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Benjamin Dube, Freddie Gwala and the Mahotella Queens, the Boom Shaka version drew a lot of criticism from some quarters.
In 1998, the response to the pioneering kwaito group performing the song at the SA Music Awards was that it was controversial and an inappropriate commercial subversion of the national anthem.
The members of the group argued their interpretation was suitable for drawing youngsters into the anthem, and it represented democracy.
And they defended themselves with the fact that prior to recording the song, they had sought the blessings of the department of arts and culture, which had given the group the go-ahead.
AmaNdiya – Mbongeni Ngema
The Sarafina! creator was called to order by then president Nelson Mandela when, in 2002, he released a song called AmaNdiya, which claimed that Indians were a source of oppression and marginalisation of black Africans in KwaZulu-Natal.
The media waded in, and Ngema was accused of being divisive and reinforcing racial stereotypes.
The SA Human Rights Commission lodged a complaint with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA after SABC radio station Ukhozi FM played the song during a current affairs programme in which the race issue was discussed.
The song was subsequently banned from being broadcast on the public broadcaster.
De la Rey – Bok van Blerk
Afrikaans musician Bok van Blerk became famous in 2006 for this song, which honoured Afrikaner General Koos de la Rey.
It was largely criticised for being racist nationalism that wanted minority segregation to return.
The song was sometimes sung like an anthem, with hand over hearts.
It was removed from the playlist at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria because of its political content.
Despite the controversy, the album (which shares the same title as the song) sold more than 200?000 copies.
Kill the boer – Julius Malema
The “Kill the Boer” chant was an anti-apartheid song made popular in the early 90s by ANC member and former deputy minister in Nelson Mandela’s government, Peter Mokaba.
The Freedom Front Plus lodged a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission after ANC members used the slogan during two public meetings in 2006 and 2007.
The commission defined the slogan “Kill the farmer, kill the Boer” as hate speech.
In 2010, then ANC Youth League president Julius Malema faced criminal charges, as well as a complaint lodged with the SA Human Rights Commission, for allegedly leading University of Johannesburg students in the song.
Blacks r fools – Slikour
In March 2012, Slikour released his controversial song Blacks R Fools.
When the video was played on music shows, a strong backlash was felt from viewers, leading to alleged death threats on social media.
Supporters of the song said people were judging it by its title and not its message.
The chorus goes: “Coz blacks are fools/ They just wanna be fresh/ And they wanna be cool/ Give them a little money and they think they rule/ But I hope we better than that.” This song was eventually taken off SABC playlists and the rapper was forced to apologise.
Fatty boom boom – Die Antwoord
In October 2012, South African rap group Die Antwoord released a video for Fatty Boom Boom, off their second album Ten$ion.
The video was intended to parody Western notions of Africa, as well as take a swipe at pop star Lady Gaga, who said she was a fan of the band’s work.
The video employed the racist technique of blackface, with Yo-Landi having her full body covered in black paint.
In spite of this, the video has, to date, more than 20?million views on YouTube.