Apartheid-era song opens old wounds in South Africa

Ruling ANC vows to challenge 'unconstitutional' ban on anthem that encourages murder of Boers

South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has said it will work to overturn a ban on an anti-apartheid song which critics claim has incited the murder of white farmers. The song "Ayesaba Amagwala", which means "The Cowards Are Afraid" in Zulu, was prohibited late on Thursday under the country's race-hate speech laws.

The anthem, from the era of the struggle against white rule, includes the line "Kill the Boers". It was revived last month when Julius Malema, the firebrand leader of the ANC's youth wing, led a chorus of students in Johannesburg. The rendition prompted a civil rights group to launch a lawsuit.

The ANC said it would go South Africa's highest court in an attempt to overturn the decision if necessary. "The ANC is approaching our courts, including the Constitutional Court ... to challenge the High Court's ruling," the party's spokesman, Jackson Mthembu, said. "The judge only considered the literal meaning of the words."

The ANC's furious response followed a cautious ruling at South Guateng High Court the previous day, in which Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann issued a provisional ban on performances of the song and referred the case to the equality court.

"The first respondent [Julius Malema] is also barred from uttering any song of a similar nature which incites violence," he said.

Judge Bertelsmann said politicians must consider democracy in South Africa to be "fragile" and that some things could cause strong offence to others. But the ANC secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, said: "These songs cannot be regarded as hate speech or unconstitutional. Any judgment that describes them as such is impractical and unimplementable."

AfriForum, a white-led human rights group which lodged the complaint against Mr Malema, has sought to link the performance to a spate of recent murders of white farmers in the country. "What we have here is an extreme form of hate speech. It should be prohibited according to South African law," the group's leader, Ernst Roets, told the BBC. "It is simply immoral to try to justify a song like this, to say that it must be seen in context."

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) defended the song as a part of the country's cultural heritage, saying: "The song ... is part of the historic fight of the people against apartheid, led by the ANC."

The row has once again put Mr Malema at the centre of a populist storm. The outspoken politician has been a near-constant presence in the headlines over the past two years, with some analysts suggesting that he has deliberately sought out wedge issues to strengthen his own base of support within the ANC. He was recently forced to vociferously deny allegations that he had been paying for his lavish lifestyle through profits from a series of public-sector contracts.

The accusations in South Africa's Sunday Times have subsequently led to pressure for "lifestyle audits" of the country's other free-spending political leaders, including President Jacob Zuma.

In many cases, Mr Malema, 29, has deliberately courted publicity by accusing opposition politicians and public-sector bosses of being racist. He has also spearheaded calls for the nationalisation of the country's economically vital mining sector – an effort that he says led to his being targeted by what he calls the "white liberal media".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Sport
Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...