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Mazibuye African Forum unrepentent about their hate speech

26 April 2019

Durban - TWO men accused of inciting racial hatred said they stood by their words despite being found guilty by the Equality Court.
Last week, magistrate John Sanders found Phumlani Mfeka and Zweli Sangweni of the Mazibuye African Forum guilty of hate speech for comments made in articles and interviews in 2013/14.
The South African Human Rights Commission and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation filed complaints against them for labelling Mahatma Gandhi a racist, claiming Indians had enslaved Africans, and the use of the “C-word” in a Mazibuye newsletter.
In a lengthy judgment on Thursday, Sanders pronounced his verdict, but said in the “interest of justice and equity” he wanted to afford the legal representatives of the parties an opportunity to address him before any sanction and/or sanctions is/are imposed in the matter.
“Furthermore, there are pertinent issues which the court would like to raise regarding any sanction and/or sanctions to be imposed.”

In summary of its findings, the court found that the applicants failed to prove that an article published in a local newspaper in 2013, quoting a statement issued by Sangweni regarding the announcement of a statue to commemorate the arrival of Indian indentured labourers in KZN, to be hate speech.
Sanders, however, found the applicants succeeded in proving that an open letter, written by Mfeka and published in a local newspaper in May 2013 titled “Newcastle Mayor lays complaint after ‘Gupta slur’”, contained hate speech based on race targeting the Indian community.

He also found the applicants succeeded in proving utterances made in an article titled “Forum blames Indians for economy downfall”, contained hate speech based on race targeting the Indian community.
Utterances can be quoted as follows: “A black business organisation, the Mazibuye African Forum, has distributed pamphlets in KwaZulu-Natal complaining about the involvement of Indians in the province’s economy. If the ANC does not address this issue a civil war could break out in KwaZulu-Natal because people are very angry, the forum’s founder Zweli Sangweni said.”
However, Mfeka said they do not believe their words constituted hate speech.
“We are waiting to hear what the magistrate sanctions for us. Thereafter, depending on that, we plan to appeal against it. If it is something about a dialogue, we could possibly do it, but then it would show that we agree that our statement was meant to cause harm and we do not believe it. The magistrate ruled that it was hate speech, but we don’t believe it. We stand by what we said.”
Mfeka added that while he was aware of the request that he and Sangweni pay a certain amount to a religious organisation, he did not want to.
“The applicants want an apology and for us to pay an amount of money to an organisation of their choice. We won’t be in a position to, especially when there are many other African initiatives that require funding.”
He said there were many “issues” facing the African and Indian communities and he would rather have a dialogue to address them.
“There’s economic and labour issues plaguing these communities. On the economic side, there’s BEE and while some of our African people are doing well, our African grandfathers are still working as garden boys. From the labour point, our African people, working in security and as domestics, complain either about being exploited for their work or being sexually abused.”
Sangweni added: “I think free speech is under attack We may have to go to the Constitutional Court to understand what is hate speech as the issue (that was presented before court) is factual.”
Neeshan Balton, an executive director at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said the guilty verdict indicated that there was no place for racism or hate speech that demeaned people.
“This case has dragged on for four years. We hope the ruling is understood by those two who made the comments.
“We would like a public apology and the Human Rights Commission will discuss financial payment for an organisation, but we would also appreciate the opportunity to request that these men engage with organisations and learn how their comments were considered hate speech. Maybe that would change their views on the Indian community.”
The president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, said: “The magistrate’s ruling reinforces that no one is above the law and that racial intolerance will not be accepted in the country.”
Gandhi’s granddaughter, Ela Gandhi, added: “Racism is so common in South Africa these days, I’m not sure if the Human Rights Commission can solve the problem.”
Sean Moodley, head of the Anti-Racism Network, said: “I welcome the judgment, but how consistent are we when taking action? Julius (Malema) got away and here these two guys were found guilty.
“Some cases, where the lady on the flight used the K-word, have gone quiet, nothing is happening. That’s why I believe we need to be consistent in fighting hate speech and do away with it completely.”

Source: IOL

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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