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Dispute between EFF and Human Rights Commission heading for equality court

11 Nov 2022

The Economic Freedom Fighters and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will probably head to the equality court after the EFF called for a neutral body to consider allegations of hate speech and incitement of violence against its leader, Julius Malema.

This week, the commission said recent statements by Malema and on EFF banners “constitute incitement of violence, hate speech and possibly other transgressions of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 4 of 2000”.

The commission received complaints about the EFF after the party held its people’s assembly in the Western Cape on 16 October, where Malema told members that “you must never be scared to kill, a revolution demands that at some point there must be killing, because the killing is part of a revolutionary act”.

“Violence can only be ended with violence not any other necessary means,” the party leader added.

In a letter to the EFF on 8 November, the commission gave the party 10 days to retract and apologise “for the prima facie unlawful statements in question and give appropriate undertakings to desist from further promotion of hatred and violence on any ground”.

In response, the EFF released a statement claiming the commission borders on restricting free speech because of its “poor comprehension skills” and misunderstanding of “political speech”.

The commission does not see the statement as an official response to its letter and will wait for the expiry of the 10 days, Majola said.

The EFF however considers its statement as the “final response on the matter at this stage”, national spokesperson Sinawo Thambo said.

In response to the EFF’s call for a neutral body, commission chairperson Bongani Majola told the Mail & Guardian that the equality court was such a body.

Hate speech, incitement of violence

The commission highlighted seven statements made by Malema and on EFF posters and banners, including two that read: “Honeymoon is over for white people in South Africa” and “A revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate”.

The EFF insisted that the commission “incorrectly and ignorantly labels these comments as incitements to violence and hate speech, revealing a failure of appreciating political commentary in its metaphorical, literary and historical sense”.

It also argued in its statement that Malema’s comments that “violence can only be ended by violence” did not incite violence.

“The experience of post-1994 has shown us that to confront violence with peace and reconciliation does not resolve injustice, and that is the context within which the utterances were made and could never constitute incitement,” it said.

The EFF added that Malema reserved his legal rights and accused the commission of being selective and hypocritical.

“We will therefore not meet the 10-day deadline of the commission or apologise until we are listened to by a neutral body … We call on them to reflect on how they assess matters relating to political speech and include amongst their mechanisms a deeper appreciation of history and literature,” the EFF said.

Source: Mail & Guardian

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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