Friday, April 22, 2011

AfriForum is not doing Boere any favors in Court...

There is a current law case in South Africa where the civil society organisations, AfriForum and others took Julius Malema, president of the ANC Youth League, to court on a hate speech accusation against a segment of society. Earlier this year, he was banned to sing the song and this is a further step in the legal process. It is claimed that the song incites hatred and violence against farmers (called 'boere' in Afrikaans) which is of great concern in South Africa - with a farmer being more than 700 time likely to killed than a police person in our country. 

However, depending on its context and use, the same word 'boere' was also used (and still is) as a derogatory term, historically referring to the oppressors that constructed and implemented 'apartheid' - it was certainly in this context that the struggle song 'Dubula Ibhunu' was originally sung with the following lyrics:

Ayesab’ amagwala (Cowards are scared)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them wit a gun)
Dubul’ ibhunu (Shoot the boer)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them wit a gun)
Mama, ndiyeke ndidubul’ ibhunu (Ma, let me shoot the Boer)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them wit a gun)
Ziyareypa lezinja (These dogs rape)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them wit a gun)

Personally, I do not see how this process and action contributes in any way to the protection of minorities and how it could achieve better understandings and respect between different people in South Africa. The conversation in the court should be happening in our kitchens, in our communities, in town halls - between people...across the country. We never spend enough time with this, and should have...

This morning, I listened to the cross examination by the appointed AfriForum advocate and he has done no one any favors - least of all the Afrikaans-speaking community. His approach to enter into debate with Malema on the stand is just not effective at all and does not belong in a court in the first place. It belongs in civil society and should have been facilitated by institutions that promote democratic dialogue. You may have a few legitimate points AfriForum, but you are not winning here...and those very points are getting lost in the apparent prejudice and lack of strategy of the legal team...

Julius Malema says to AfriForum, "You cannot speak on behalf of all the farmers", and he is absolutely right - the organisation can also not speak for all Afrikaans people and I am embarrassed by the nature, content and sarcasm of the legal representative for an Afrikaans organisation representing some farmers. Do not get me wrong, I do not support the song/chant to be sung today - in favor of reconciling different races - and precisely to ensure that some young person that has not been part of the struggle, may one day misinterpret the song (against oppression) and go out and shoot a farmer, a criminal act. Only for this reason, it is indeed justified to request comrades not to sing the song. But the way in which the examination is done and the political, ideologically statements! by the AfriForum council is not doing boere any favor. 

It is maybe a good thing that the discourse displays the ignorance and fear of some 'boere' and their spokes persons so vividly. It shows all of us how much work still needs to be done in our young democracy - on basics, such as: respect for differences in heritage and experiences, socio-political linguistic interpretation of words and freedom of speech.

We have a long way to go. I am hoping the trial will have a good outcome to bring people closer together - but I fear the opposite is happening, and the upcoming local elections in our country will demonstrate if our democracy is still healthy. 


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