Gandhi detractors unrepentant about their ‘hate speech’
Utterances were all true, they say
THE TWO men accused of hate speech against Indians and of calling Mahatma Gandhi a racist are remaining defiant, saying they stand by their statements as they await the Equality Court’s ruling in the matter.
Phumlani Mfeka and Zweli Sangweni, the former leaders of the Mazibuye African Forum, appeared in the Equality Court in Durban last week.
Magistrate John Sanders adjourned the matter for a ruling to be delivered in April.
Emerging from the court, Mfeka said he hoped there would be no more delays in the case which had dragged on since 2014.
The unrepentant Mfeka said they stood by the statements they made in 2013, as they believed they did not constitute hate speech.
“Indians are the main employer in the region, that is true. The fact that the main perpetrators of physical abuse and sexual violations in the workplace are employers of Indian origin is true. The fact that the people who dominate the economy of this region are Indians is true, so we stand by our statements,” he said.
The case against Mfeka, Sangweni and Mazibuye African Forum was brought by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation in 2014 and is based on utterances recorded in newspaper articles.
The applicants want some of the utterances declared hate speech and for the two men to apologise and be fined R50 000. They want the money to be donated to an orphanage in Ingwavuma.
One article, submitted as evidence in court, related to a report on the group’s attempt to stop the building of a monument commemorating the arrival of indentured Indian labourers.
The applicants say in their heads of argument: “The anti-Indian and racist rhetoric is confirmed by the reference to Gandhi and the Guptas who have nothing whatsoever to do with the erection of the statue except that they also can be classified as Indian.
“The article in general terms categorises all South Africans of Indian descent as overtly racist towards Africans and not worthy of any recognition.” They further argue that hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion is not protected by the Constitution.
When the matter was heard in court, SAHRC chairperson Professor Bongani Majola was among those to give evidence. Majola, a former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court which dealt with the Rwandan genocide, testified that genocide was often preceded by hate speech.
While the respondents argued that since the formation of Mazibuye African Forum there had not been any violence targeting Indians, the applicants said the “issue is whether their words, reasonably construed, are capable of inciting emotional damage, serious psychological harm, humiliation, degradation and inciting harm”.
In the heads of argument, the respondents dwell much on the evidence given by Majola, accusing him of being out of touch and of “hyberbolic reading” of some of the articles in order to “give a particular strong meaning in support of the applicant’s claim that the articles constituted hate speech”.
They further contend that there is a debate about whether Gandhi was racist.
“Suppressing views on this would be similar to suggesting that nothing should be said about the history of Germany under Hitler, as that has the potential to hurt the feelings of Germans.”
They further submit that their mention of the Guptas came at the time when their landing at the Waterkloof air base was a topical issue.
The respondents then question Majola’s interpretation of the isiZulu idiom “akukho zinyane lemvubu ladliwa zingwenya kwacweba iziziba” to mean “there will be turmoil, violence or consequence”.
They say this is wrong as the literal translation of the idiom is “there can be no silence in the lake when a calf of a hippopotamus is devoured by crocodiles”.