The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema’s comments criticising Indians and white people are still problematic, despite finding no legal grounds to classify them as hate speech.
The commission received complaints about separate statements made over a period of three years by Malema and his EFF colleague Godrich Gardee.
The remarks, which the commission investigated include the ‘kill the boer’ song, calling on supporters ‘not to slaughter whites for now’ and a claim that the majority of Indians are racist.
Human Rights Commission chair Bongani Majola says although they found that Malema’s five statements don’t amount to hate speech, it doesn’t mean he’s exonerated from wrongdoing.
“Even though the finding is that it doesn’t amount to hate speech this time, his utterances are still quite problematic to us, in a democratic society that is committed to healing the divisions of the past.”
The commission said although Malema’s utterances have been perceived to be hurtful by some, the commission had to be guided by the law and not by emotions.
A month ago, Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice received submissions to amend the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.
The Bill proposes a statutory criminal offence to those who use foul words to discriminate against others based on their race, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity or age.
The HRC also said Malema needs to find other ways to talk to his supporters.
The commission’s CEO Tseliso Thipanyane said there was an element of irresponsibility in Malema’s statements.
“We should actually be very careful if how we communicate, and this is why we find Mr malema’s quite problematic.”
Senior researcher Shanelle van der Berg added: “By not calling for the slaughtering of white people and not seeing a point in time where this will be called for, there is no imminent threat.”
The commission found that all of the statements had to be viewed in context and it acknowledged that black people are still more vulnerable than Indians.
The fifth matter is regarding Gardee calling DA leader Mmusi Maimane a garden boy on social media.