“COSATU has got members here even on this campus; we can make sure that for that side it will be hell”
“COSATU is with you, we will do everything to make sure that whether its at Wits University, whether it’s at Orange Grove, anyone who does not support equality and dignity, who does not support the rights of other people must face the consequences even if it means that we will do something that may necessarily cause what is regarded as harm…”
“…The following things are going to apply: any South African family who sends its son or daughter to be part of the Israeli Defence Force must not blame us if something happens to them with immediate effect…”
Bongani Masuku at an address to students at Wits University, Johannesburg
We are often told that the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) is a peaceful, moderate and secular (secular…so what?) organisation. This flies in the face of the facts on the ground, most recently, their support for COSATU’s Bongani Masuku. It was after all at an event jointly hosted by the PSC where Masuku threatened to “do something that may necessarily cause what is regarded as harm” to Jewish supporters of Israel. And so it is with no surprise to see that the PSC has issued a Press Release supporting Masuku and informing that he will appeal against the SAHRC ruling of Hate Speech.
Media Release: SAHRC errs in hate speech ruling against COSATU’s Masuku Issued by: Palestine Solidarity Committee 4 December 2009
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Palestine solidarity movement in South Africa are shocked and appalled by the decision of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which found that COSATU’s International Relations Secretary, Bongani Masuku, is guilty of hate speech and called on him to apologise to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD).
In a submission to the SAHRC, the SAJBD had accused Bongani of hate speech for comments he made during a lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand, hosted by the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Young Communist League, as well as comments he had made on a Zionist blog and in a personal email to a Zionist detractor. As Bongani’s response (see below for full text) to the SAJBD complaint illustrates, none of his comments can be regarded as hate speech in terms of the South African Constitution. Furthermore, his comments, in the main, referred to South Africans who supported the illegal Israeli military occupation – irrespective of their religious or ethnic backgrounds. These comments were certainly a trenchant critique of Israel and its apologists and supporters in South Africa, but were not directed at the Jewish community or any other ethnic group.
Section 16 of the South African Constitution, the section on Freedom of Expression, states:
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes- 1. freedom of the press and other media; 2. freedom to receive or impart information or ideas; 3. freedom of artistic creativity; and 4. academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
(2) The right in subsection (1) does not extend to- 1. propaganda for war; 2. incitement of imminent violence; or
3. advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.
None of Bongani’s statements can be regarded as being ‘advocacy of hatred’ based on ‘race, ethnicity, gender or religion’. He did not refer to Jews, as is being alleged. The gleeful and smug comment by the SAJBD, following the SAHRC decision, is simply untrue. Their claim that Bongani’s comments ‘advocate and imply that the Jewish and Israeli community are to be despised, scorned, ridiculed and thus subjecting them to ill-treatment on the basis of their religious affiliation’ is a pack of lies.
It is through such lies and intimidation that the SAJBD, the South African Zionist Federation, and other apologists of Israel have sought to chill free expression in South Africa and to prevent any critique of Israeli war crimes. Their repeated accusations of ‘hate speech’ against criticisms of Israel have become wasteful of public resources, and trivialise the very serious charge of ‘hate speech’. Furthermore, their constant, frivolous, and false accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ against critics of the state of Israel and the calumny of ‘self-hating Jews’ against those Jews who support the just struggle of the Palestinian people against racism and oppression is an attempt to silence and intimidate those who, using their own experience of racism and oppression in Apartheid South Africa, feel they can contribute to a just resolution of the problems in the Middle East.
Indeed, we believe that SAJBD’s statement during the Gaza massacre of December 2008-January 2009, wherein it defended all Israeli actions in that massacre – including the use of white phosphorous against civilians, the bombing of United Nations buildings, the murder of civilians, the bombing of civilian infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and places of worship – violates Section 16 of the Constitution in attempting to incite South Africans (especially South African Jews) to violence against Palestinians, and in being clear and obvious propaganda for war.
We are shocked that the SAHRC, after receiving a written complaint and a written response to that complaint, saw fit to make such a finding – with the potential weighty precedent that it can set – without even entertaining a hearing on this matter. We do not believe this constitutes due process and believe it to be unprocedural in terms of the manner in which the Commission should operate and in terms of its mandate to ensure the realisation of Constitutional rights – including the right to free expression. We are also surprised that the Commission made such a decision which blatantly contradicts previous rulings it has made on similar issues.
Bongani, with the support of Cosatu and various solidarity organisations in South Africa, will appeal this SAHRC decision and is willing to defend his right to free expression – as guaranteed by our Constitution – in the Equality Court and in any other court in South Africa.
See the Voice of the Cape for a more detailed response from the PSC including a cartoon where they employ the stock-standard response that the SAJBD regard any criticism of Israel as antisemitic: SAHRC erred on hate speech
Previously at IAS
- Summary of Masuku's Hate Speech
- COSATU's Masuku guilty of hate speech
- Bongani Masuku at Wits University
- COSATU's Masuku calls on Zionist Jews to leave SA