The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has upheld a complaint of
hate speech against Bongani Masuku, the international relations spokesperson for
the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
The complaint, lodged by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) on
March 26 this year, was based on various threatening, inflammatory and
derogatory statements made by Masuku against the mainstream South African Jewish
community and its leadership.
SAJBD national chair Zev Krengel said the ruling had reaffirmed the
zero-tolerance attitude towards any form of hate speech that underpinned the
country’s democratic culture. As such, it should be seen as a victory for all
“While instances of racist and inflammatory rhetoric directed
against sectors of society will inevitably occur from time to time, it is
encouraging to see that this country has in place effective mechanisms to deal
We applaud the SAHRC for sending out a clear message that the right
to freedom of expression does not include a license to indulge in hate speech
and incitement” he said.
The SAJBD’s complaint detailed how Masuku, in a public address at
Wits University on March 5, as well as in various written communications, had
repeatedly threatened that Jewish South Africans would be targeted because of
their support for Israel.
This included statements that Jewish lives would be
made ‘hell’, that vigilante action would be taken against Jewish families
suspected of having members serving in the Israeli military, and that Jews who
continued to stand up for Israel should “not just be encouraged but forced to
leave South Africa“.
In its ruling, the SAHRC noted the following:
[Masuku’s] comments and statements made are of an extreme nature
that 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.
A prima facie case of hate speech is
clearly established as the statements and comments by Masuku are offensive and
unpalatable to society.
The SAHRC requested Masuku to tender an apology to the SAJBD within
14 days, failing which the matter would be referred to the relevant Equality
Court for final adjudication without further notice to him.
Krengel said that
although the SAJBD was prepared to go to court, he hoped that an appropriate
apology from Masuku would make this unnecessary.