ANC's Malema on Trial for Hate Speech for South African Struggle Song

An Afrikaner-interest group maintains that the struggle song containing the lyrics awudubhule ibhunu, or "shoot the Boer," constitutes hate speech.

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The Mail & Guardian is reporting that the trial of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema for hate speech is entering its second week. Malema is charged with hate speech for singing the South African struggle song "Dubul'ibhunu," which translates to "Shoot the Boer." Malema maintains that he has the right to sing the song, chanting the controversial lyrics at the courthouse.

This case is interesting because struggle music is a major part of South African culture, particularly black South Africans. The Boers participated in the oppression of black South Africans, even though they maintain that they are ethnically and culturally different from Afrikaners.

"Boer" is an Afrikaans word that refers to the Dutch-speaking farmers who settled along the Eastern Cape in the 18th century. They are most known for the Great Trek, leaving the Eastern Cape to escape British colonial rule, landing in the Boer Republics (Orange Free State and Transvaal).

They fought the British in two Anglo-Boer wars to maintain their independence and are ultraconservative, maintaining that they have not been "co-opted" like the Afrikaners. Their message is one of white nationalism, and they were major participants in apartheid-era practices. Louis Botha and Paul Kruger were Boers.

An Afrikaner-interest group calling for Malema to be prosecuted for hate speech is a major problem. Afriforum, the interest group, does not want struggle songs that talk about fighting against the oppressor to be sung. ANC heavyweights showed up in support of Malema, including party Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, poet and struggle veteran Mongane Wally Serote, ANC member of Parliament Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Deputy Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom. Mantashe, Chabane and Malema were expected to take the stand this week. Madikizela-Mandela will not testify.

Serote testified, "It is African culture to sing," adding that Bantu education had "de-educated" people. "We came together, understood something and sang together ... you won't find a composer ... you are guided by everybody." Serote said that there is a need for a national dialogue.

National dialogue -- yes. Prosecution -- no. Leave it to the Boers to try and stop black folks from singing songs that are a part of their cultural history and struggle. The song isn't just about the Boers -- it is about the struggle, and the Boers at that time were opposed to black South Africans having freedom or human rights.

It is historical memory that should not be muted so that the Boers don't have to face their past misdeeds. Music is political and cultural, and as evidenced by Malema, courts won't stop the pursuit of freedom or expression, regardless of the rulings.

Read more at the Mail & Guardian.