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The judgement delivered Monday in Julius Malema‘s hate-speech trial has sharply divided South African tweeters.
The Equality court has found that the controversial ANC Youth League (ANCYL) President’s singing of an ANC revolutionary song containing the lyrics “dhubula ibhunu” (loosely translated to mean “shoot the boer”) constitutes hate speech.
Penned by Judge Collin Lamont, the ruling which has received attention from international news outlets, was unequivocal. He found that “The singing of the song by Malema constituted hate speech”, and that “No justification exist allowing the words to be sung… the words were in any event not sung on a justifiable occasion”.
The court case was brought forward by Afriforum, an Afrikaans civil society group, which is of the opinion that the singing of the song titled “Ayesaba Amagwala” (the cowards are afraid) was threatening to Afrikaners and farmers.
The case has stirred debate, certain to spill over to newspaper editorials, amongst South Africa’s Twitter users. Journalists, “thought-leaders”, and the general public have weighed in on Malema, the merits of the case, freedom of speech, and hate-speech.
The ruling against Malema, an often reviled figure amongst South Africans, was celebrated by some.
Just as there were those who reacted favourably to the ruling, there was was also a strong contingent voicing opposition to it.
One of South Africa’s most popular personalities, DJ Fresh, retweeted a tweet from leading South African journalist Gus Silber to his 117 125 followers on the social network.
Two of South Africa’s leading newspaper editors, Nic Dawes and Ferial Haffajee, were also against the ruling.
Critically acclaimed author Fiona Snykers also expressed strong opposition to the ruling.
Some users, including former CNBC Africa host Siki Mgabadeli, noted irony in the fact that the ruling was reached on the same day that South African struggle hero Steve Bantu Biko was killed by Apartheid forces 34 years ago.
The ruling, which bans Malema from singing the song both in public and in private and orders him to pay the “costs” of the trial, is expected to be appealed to the highest court in South Africa where a controversial new Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng has been appointed.
The infamous Julius Malema parody account took the opportunity to poke fun at the ruling and Malema.
A few hours after the ruling was handed down, first word from the ANCYL on the matter came via its official Twitter account.