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.

Racist rhetoric

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”.

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