COSATU on the Equality Court Ruling
The Congress of South African Trade Unions is seriously disturbed by the judgment of the Equality Court which (12 September 2011) that the song ‘dubhula ibhunu' constitutes hate speech. The judgment that the song is "discriminatory" and "harmful" is a gross insult to our history as a country.
As COSATU, we have repeatedly said that the song, like many other national liberation songs, is part of our heritage and history of struggle.
The intention of the song was never literal. Rather, it is a song that merely echoes the anger and frustration of the black majority that was robbed of all rights and dignity under the inhumane apartheid system and all legal recourse through which to challenge the system.
The song was also never directed at individual white South Africans but rather a class of land barons who brutally exploited black workers and immensely benefitted from their subjugation under apartheid rule.
Although we embrace and fully support efforts to unite South Africans across race, colour and creed, our unity as South Africans and non-racialism as a democratic project would be hollow and meaningless if it is founded on an imposed amnesia about our apartheid past and its legacy, which still haunts many black South Africans to this day.
That this disturbing judgment is handed down during the month of September, which is a month in which we celebrate our heritage, depicts the extent to which our society daily forces the black majority as the main victims of apartheid to make compromises about their history and memory of suffering under apartheid brutality under the guise of unity and non-racialism.
South Africa's struggle heritage and culture is part of our history. It is thus very dangerous and destructive for the courts to decide what songs South Africans can be allowed to sing and banning those they object to. We still maintain that the appropriateness of songs is something that should be subject to a political discussion and not settled in the courts.
COSATU strongly believes that rulings such as these are only cosmetic as most the conditions that motivated black South Africans to sing such songs still exist even today, particularly in the economy.
The only time that such songs will lose relevance is when we no longer have a class of people who own vast tracts of green land whilst the majority of the population lives in overcrowded spaces formerly known as Bantustans, having inherited barren land that cannot host any vegetation or life.
Statement issued by Phindile Kunene, Shopsteward Editor, COSATU, September 12 2011
Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter