With less than 48 hours to go before South Africans cast their vote, Black First Land First has been found guilty of hate speech by the Equality Court.
The controversial slogan in question: Land or Death, appears everywhere from the party’s regalia to its website and even its social media accounts.
The ruling, which was brought to the Equality Court by the South African Human Rights Commission on Monday morning, also said that the BLF should apologise to all South Africans, and that the apology would be published on the commission’s website. The court has given the party one month to act, but the party will said it will appeal the ruling and has refused to issue an apology.
Following the ruling, BLF deputy president Zanele Lwana said that they would not be apologising for having Land or Death as their slogan, and that they would be taking the matter on appeal.
“We believe we are protected within the confines of the Constitution in terms of freedom of expression and association,” Lwana said.
The BLF, which has come under scrutiny by political parties such as the Freedom Front Plus, the Democratic Alliance and the ANC, was founded in 2015 and has since called for an end to state capture and an end to capitalism. It has also called for black people to occupy white-owned land in order to advance land reform in the country.
The threat against land being occupied by BLF members was so strong that in March a group of farmer’s in the Western Cape lodged an interdict at the Western Cape High Court to prevent the party or its members from occupying their land. A total of ten applicants lodged the interdict, and alleged that the BLF had threatened various farmers with land grabs. The BLF did not contest the interdict.
In April, addressing supporters at the launch of the party’s election manifesto in Orlando East, BLF leader Andile Mngxitama said that the party was facing financial challenges but was still headed to the National Assembly. It was at the launch where he called for an interest-free state bank, saying that the BLF was a party for the people.
Mngxitama, speaking after the ruling on Monday, said that “We will not apologise for our commitment to get back land by any means necessary. No one is going to stop us. We are going to appeal and we will win again.”
The court has referred the matter to the director of public prosecutions for possible criminal charges.