DOCUMENTS

Hoerskool Overvaal protests hijacked by racial bigots - Mmusi Maimane

DA leader says Lesufi and his dept deliberately escalated this highly emotive issue

DA will not hesitate to take legal action against those propagating hate speech or inciting violence

Protests at the Hoerskool Overvaal in Gauteng have been highjacked by racial bigots both black and white, turning an important legal question into a racially divisive and violent confrontation, with a number of examples of egregious hate speech by both sides of the dispute.

Any person or group is entitled to protest peacefully and to hold whatever view they wish within the law. However, protests which are violent, or views which explicitly qualify as hate speech or the incitement of violence, are not permissible and should be condemned in the strongest terms. Protestors must respect the legal process currently underway, including both the judgment of the High Court and the appeal process initiated by the Gauteng Education Department.

Video evidence has come to light of people purporting to be members of the EFF threatening to kill white South Africans and singing a song which has already been found to be hate speech, “Kill the Boer”. This is racist hate speech and should be condemned by all, and that party should distance itself from these individuals. Similarly, posts by far-right white racists using disgusting racial epithets to describe protestors, and threatening to arm themselves, is equally condemnable and illegal.

This is the inevitable result of cheaply and cynically fanning the flames of racial tension for quick political point scoring, and it is repeated time and time again around the country whenever a new pretence is found to unleash this kind of hateful language and bloodlust. As evidence before the Gauteng High Court showed, this issue need never have escalated in the way that it now has. It was escalated deliberately by certain Education Department officials and by the MEC for Education, but with no regard to the consequences for the community or indeed for the country.

We urge the public not to assume that the fringe racists that dominate the media at these protests represent all South Africans, or to be drawn in by their divisive and destructive message. They represent only their own bigoted views and have very little if any broader public support. They are desperate for the brief spotlight that these issues afford them, and will do anything to keep them going or find others. We are engaged in the much more important, much harder task of building a national consensus and of bringing people together around the Constitution and the values of our democracy. We will continue this work without distraction.

Our Constitution established a Hate Crimes and Equality Court. It is crucial that we capacitate these institutions.

We must always purse a reconciled South Africa. This does not mean getting together and holding hands but rather building a reconciled nation that opens up economic and educational opportunities.

It is the mandate of the Gauteng government to deliver this. Our resource base needs to be broadened so that more people have access to these opportunities.

If we continue to pursue an eye for an eye, it will only result in a blind nation.

The DA urges all involved in the protests to respect the rule of law and await the decision of the courts, and we will not hesitate to take legal action against those propagating hate speech or inciting violence.

Statement issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 19 January 2018