In South Africa, Judge Colin Lamont found Julius Malema guilty of hate speech. Mr. Malema is a 30-year-old leader of the Youth League of the African National Congress. Mr. Malema frequently sang an apartheid-era freedom song entitled “Shoot the Boer.” Some believe that Boer refers to whites specifically, although it is said to mean farmer.
Judge Lamont stated that allowing Mr. Malema to continue singing such a hateful song about killing whites could lead to genocide. Mr. Malema defended himself by arguing that the song was a “symbolic rallying cry to dismantle apartheid,” as opposed to an encouragement to murder. Judge Lamont did not agree with Mr. Malema, finding that singing this song constituted hate speech. In addition, Judge Lamont outlawed the refrain insinuating that white farmers be shot. This finding resulted in Mr. Malema being ordered to pay court costs. It is unclear at this time whether Mr. Malema will appeal the judgment.
This case raises questions concerning hate speech and freedom of speech. Was Mr. Malema simply exercising his right to free speech, as provided for him by the democratic government of South Africa? The answer to this question has to be considered in the context of a post-apartheid South Africa. The country is still dealing with the ramifications of segregation that took place for decades. Was Judge Lamont correct in stating that singing such a song could eventually lead to a genocide of whites? Some, like Mr. Malema would argue that the song merely expresses a liberation effort of the suppressed.
Does Judge Lamont’s ruling seem fair? Does singing “Shoot the Boer” reflect hate speech or the concept of freedom of speech? Is this ruling an indication of Africa’s growth or digression since the apartheid-era?