In 2011, a South African court banned the anti-apartheid song “Shoot the Boer” after ruling it hate speech, writes Nimi Hoffmann.
In 2011, the new ANC Youth League president Julius Malema sang the struggle-era song dubula amabhunu (Shoot the Boer) four times in South Africa and once in Zimbabwe at public events. The refrain dubula amabhunu was first uttered by Peter Mokoba at a rally in Cape Town in 1993 in memory of the South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani. Hani had recently been murdered by right-wing whites in order to derail the negotiations to end apartheid.
In protest, the Afrikaner lobby group Afriforum took a petition to the ANC’s head offices in Johannesburg. Along with the petition, they handed over a list of 1,600 recent victims of farm attacks in South Africa. The Youth League’s response was to throw the list into the gutter and trample on it. Afriforum subsequently took Julius Malema to court for hate speech, arguing that the word amabhunu refers to Afrikaners or farmers and that the lyrics incite violence towards this group.
The ANC defended Malema’s singing of the lyrics, explaining that they formed part of the repertoire of songs used to galvanise people during apartheid, and that the song was a part of struggle heritage. Malema’s legal counsel in turn objected to the English translation of the lyrics, arguing that the lyrics were taken out of context and that the word amabhunu does not refer to Afrikaners, but to the system of apartheid.
However, Judge Colin Lamont ruled in South Africa’s high court that the singing of the song contravened the hate speech provision in the Equality Act, and violated the ethical principle of ubuntu, which refers to individuals’ obligation to care for others. The song was subsequently banned from all public and private meetings.