The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Tuesday it planned to take action against Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema for his “social media utterances” following founding Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s passing.
“The commission is of the view that the social media utterances by Mr Malema around former [Zimbabwean] president Robert Mugabe’s passing away, on a prima facie basis, amount to hate speech under Section 10 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA),” the commission said.
The body is likely referring to a pinned tweet from Malema, consisting of an EFF-branded slide show of quotes from Mugabe, including one which reads: “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man”. This caused outrage and calls for intervention from the SAHRC, including from former DA leader Tony Leon.
“The SAHRC has on numerous occasions urged political leaders to recognise and take responsibility for the power they wield through their words,” said the commission in a statement.“At the same time, the commission remains committed to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of expression. The right to free speech is protected as a basic human right, under Section 16 of the Constitution.
This right is, however, limited and hate speech is not protected under the right to freedom of expression.”The commission is therefore deeply concerned by recent utterances attributed to Mr Julius Malema, a member of parliament and the leader of the EFF.
“The SAHRC condemns these racially divisive utterances, as they go against the non-racialist values upon which South Africa’s constitutional democracy is founded and will, therefore, refer the matter to the Equality Court.”
Amid mounting outrage, Malema took to Twitter to share a screenshot showing that someone had reported the tweet, and that Twitter “could not identify any violations of the Twitter rules”. He shared this along with the caption “Stratcom”, which was once an apartheid-era unit tasked with spreading misinformation and is now used which by the EFF and others as a term for members of the media that they see as enemies.
Some have since taken to Twitter to complain about Twitter failing to take the tweet down.
The quote was indeed said by Mugabe and was included in a list of his “most eccentric quotes” in UK publication The Independent, which also quotes the late liberation icon-turned-dictator as infamously saying homosexuals are “worse than dogs and pigs”.
This is also not the only contentious Mugabe quote in the slide show. It also includes: “What we hate is not the colour of their skin but the evil that emanates from them”; “It may be necessary to use methods other than constitutional ones”; and “Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy.”