South African youth leader calls courts racist

AP News
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Posted: Sep 14, 2011 10:31 AM
South African youth leader calls courts racist

The South African governing party's youth leader called his nation's courts "racist" on Wednesday, two days after a judge ruled against him in a hate speech case for singing a song that some whites find offensive.

Julius Malema, making his first comments since a judge ruled against him for his repeated public singing of the apartheid-era song "Shoot the Boer," also told reporters the African National Congress Youth League would appeal.

Judge Collin Lamont had said the song had its place during apartheid, but goes against the spirit of reconciliation South Africans have tried to foster since white minority rule ended in 1994. "Boer," farmer in the language of Dutch-descended South Africans, is sometimes used for all whites.

Under the ruling, criminal cases can now be brought against those who sing the song or quote its lyrics.

Malema, who is black, says the song is not a literal threat against whites, but a symbolic call to fight enduring oppression and injustice, and should be protected as part of the heritage of the anti-apartheid movement.

In South African courts today, some white judges appointed under apartheid as well as new judges of all races interpret laws and a liberal constitution written since 1994. But Malema said the system has not been changed enough.

"The courts are not transformed, the judiciary is not transformed in South Africa, and everybody acknowledges that," he said. "And if not being transformed means it's racist, then so be it."

Malema was taken to court by AfriForum, a white rights group. In a statement Wednesday, AfriForum leader Kallie Kriel said his organization was ready to oppose Malema's appeal.

"While the Youth League is still claiming that Malema's inflammatory statements are not to be taken literally, people are literally being killed," Kriel said.

But Lamont said in his ruling there was no evidence that song had inspired violence against whites.

Lamont said South Africa's post-apartheid constitution and the spirit of reconciliation that informed it enjoins all members of society to "embrace all citizens as their brothers" and avoid language designed "to be hurtful, to incite harm and promote hatred."

The court case is separate from Malema's internal party disciplinary hearings, which like the hate speech trial have drawn wide attention in South Africa. He faces possible suspension or expulsion from the party because of unrelated actions. Malema, speaking Wednesday at the ANC's downtown Johannesburg headquarters, called on ANC leaders to rally behind him in the hate speech case.

In the ongoing disciplinary hearings, Malema is accused of violating the party constitution and sowing dissension by undermining President Jacob Zuma and calling for the overthrow of the leader of neighboring Botswana.

Malema, 30, also is being investigated by police and an independent anti-graft office on possible corruption charges involving government contracts.

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Associated Press Television News producer Tendai Musiya contributed to this report.