Equality Court orders BLF leaders to apologise for 'harmful comments' about dead white pupils

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Black First Land First's (BLF) Lindsay Maasdorp.
Black First Land First's (BLF) Lindsay Maasdorp.
PHOTO: Isabel Venter
  • The Equality Court ruled that comments by BLF leaders following the deaths of three children at Hoërskool Driehoek amounted to hate speech.
  • BLF national spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp and secretary Zwelakhe Dubasi have been ordered to pay the families R50 000 each.
  • They have also been ordered to apologise to all South Africans for their comments.

The Equality Court has ruled that two Black First Land First (BLF) leaders have to apologise to all South Africans for social media comments about white children who died when a bridge collapsed at their school.

On Wednesday, the Equality Court ordered that BLF national spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp and secretary Zwelakhe Dubasi pay the families of the three children who died at Hoërskool Driehoek R50 000 each. The money has to be paid within 30 days.

The children – Roydon Olckers, Marli Currie and Marnus Nagel – died when a walkway bridge collapsed at Hoërskool Driehoek. At least 20 others were injured.

Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng also ruled that Maasdorp and Dubasi delete their posts, which he deemed hate speech. He also said they should write an apology "to all South Africans in which they acknowledge that their comments were hate speech, that they were wrong to publish or post the same, and undertake to desist in publishing or posting the said comments…"

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The apology must be sent to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) within 30 days. The SAHRC will then disseminate it to the public.

After the Driehoek bridge collapse, Maasdorp, on his Twitter account @BLF_Lindsay, responded to another user, who said the children's deaths were not a sad issue. Maasdorp said: "Siyanda Gumede is correct! God is responding, why should we frown on the ancestors petition to punish the land thieves including their offspring? (sic)."

Maasdorp also said in a newspaper interview:

I celebrate the death of our enemies, their children, their cats and dogs. That is our position.

Dubasi also made similar comments on social media.

Solidarity and the parents of the dead children took them to the Equality Court.

During the case, Maasdorp and Dubasi were represented by BLF president Andile Mngxitama, who claimed their comments didn't amount to incitement to cause harm to white people. They also denied that their comments promoted hatred based on race.

In November 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) set aside an Equality Court judgment and found that Section 10 of the Equality Act was vague, unconstitutional and invalid. This came after veteran journalist Jon Qwelane had written a newspaper column criticising homosexual relationships.

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The Equality Court ruled that the BLF case was null in light of the judgment. The pupils' parents and Solidarity appealed to the SCA, which ruled that the matter should go back to the Equality Court for finalisation.

While the case was back at the Equality Court, the Qwelane case was concluded at the Constitutional Court. The court ruled that Qwelane's article constituted hate speech.

The Equality Court asked the parties in the BLF matter to submit additional heads of arguments in light of the Constitutional Court decision. Mngxitama did not do so. They also did not show up to a court hearing on 30 November 2021.

In his judgment, Mokgoatlheng said the statements about the pupils were harmful.

Mokgoatlheng said: 

It was the dissemination of hatred with the intent to cause or incite harm and was meant to undermine the dignity and humanity of the children who have died and were injured, their parents and whites in general.

"The respondents cannot dispute the fact that they have vilified whites because whites are the enemy, and they are land thieves. The respondents view themselves as being at war with whites. According to the respondents, white people are not deserving of life; according to the respondents, their deaths ought to be celebrated even the death of innocent children, including their cats and dogs."

Mokgoatlheng also said the children's parents should have been allowed to mourn their children with dignity.

A few weeks ago, the Equality Court ruled that Maasdorp should undergo sensitivity and diversity training at a suitable institution by December 2022. He was also interdicted from publishing any statements that advocate the killing or violence against any group in the country.

This after he had been taken to court after several complaints of alleged hate speech by him were lodged with the SAHRC.

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