In their press release regarding the five complaints brought against Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema stemming back to 2016, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHR) came to the decision that he was not guilty of hate speech.
I’ve examined some Malema’s most problematic statements here, which I stated surely constituted hate speech. In our follow up post (to this post), we will examine the constitution as it defines hate speech and then contrast that with Malema’s own statements. But that aside, the SAHRC also had the following to say at the press release:
“So the constitutional law recognizes our context is not neutral. It recognized that we have to take into account our past of racial exclusion and marginalization, and it takes into account the fact that who utters the word, the perpetrator makes a difference, and who receives the insult or the hate speech makes a difference. We have no findings in our law yet about what happens when, for example, a black person calls another black person the K-word, we simply do not know what the courts would decide in an instance like that. It is clear that the constitutional court is of the view that certain words and expressions will depend on whether it is uttered by a white person or a black person, and against a white person or a black person.” (emphasis added)
As a statement, this is telling concerning the SAHRC’s views which filter into their decision making. On one side they note the limitations within South African law in terms of how it would be applied in certain cases (such as in black on black racism, for example). It is further significant in terms of how the SAHRC believes racists should be dealt with. But it is in this latter concern where the biggest issue with their stance can be noted, which leads one to wonder just how representative of the rights of all South Africans the SAHRC really is.
As a body, the SAHRC is meant to uphold the humans rights as well as the dignity of all South Africans across the racial spectrum, yet from their public announcement it is clear that they do not view nor will they treat perpetrators and victims of race crimes equally, and they will base their decisions and verdicts on skin colour. A simple example could be used to capture this logic. Imagine four 20 year old South Africans born within a post-apartheid, democratic South Africa, each of a different race. Suppose that they all say the exact same racist statement. According to the SAHRC, the punishment would be harsher for the white 20 year than the black 20 year old, or for any of the representatives of the other races. Additionally, by SAHRC logic, should the white 20 year old be the victim of racism, it would not be deemed as severe should the black 20 year old have been a victim of the exact same racism. Not only is this wrong in how the law should be applied in its treatment of all people collectively (regardless of race, gender, culture etc.), but it is also insensitive to the individual. It might be the case that the white individual has a particularly sensitive response to being a victim of racism, which would cause him or her serious emotional and psychological distress. However, this doesn’t matter to the SAHRC. For them it is not the individaul who matters, but the race of the individual. Thus, rather than looking at racism on an individual basis fairly and equally, the SAHRC have already predetermined the value inherent to the act of racism, which is based on the victim’s skin colour.
The SAHRC has essentially just stated that South Africans are not all equal in their eyes before the law, a position which is not only morally bankrupt but would also seem to disregard the constitution which states that all South Africans are equal in the eyes of the law, independent of race, gender, religion. If it is true that this is the view of the constitutional courts (which the SAHRC claims it is) then something is fundamentally wrong and immoral within our law system, and it needs to change. If the SAHRC are wrong in terms of how the constitutional courts views racism, then they’ve disregarded our constitution and thus cannot be deemed representatives of the law.
As I noted yesterday, those who have a hatred for white skin and whiteness have lauded and championed the SAHRC’s verdict, even those bodies that are ideologically and politically opposed to the EFF and Malema. It is not difficult to discern why this is the case. Why? Simply because it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to acknowledge the hate speech inherent in Malema’s statements about whites. Malema, as a politician with power, has stated his desire to eradicate white identity (“cut the throat of whiteness”) and possibly physically kill white people in the future (“we’re not calling for the killing of white people, at least for now”).
The SAHRC states that they are committed to promoting “respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.” But how have my rights as a white South African been protected or respected here? In fact, the SAHRC, far from standing up for my rights as a South African, have gone even further, stating in no uncertain terms that as a victim of racism I, because I’m a white individual, will not treated equally to a black individual.