Struggle songs told of the journey travelled to bring about a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
THE Constitutional Court yesterday missed an opportunity to deal with the inappropriate use of the word “boer” in Struggle songs, a Member of Parliament complained.
An unhappy Freedom Front Plus MP Dr Pieter Groenewald said the apex court missed an opportunity by not seeing the use of the word “boer” in the context of another controversial Struggle song “kill the boer” (Dubul’ iBhunu).
The song was declared hate speech in 2010 after then ANC Youth League president Julius Malema publicly sang it at a rally.
In 2011, Johannesburg High Court Judge Colin Lamont ruled Malema’s singing of the “shoot the boer” song amounted to hate speech.
Groenewald insisted that the use of the word “boer” in Struggle songs was highly inappropriate.
He said the ruling was a technical finding but the court should have considered the current polarisation between races in the country.
ANC national executive committee member and eminent heritage specialist Dr Mathole Motshekga warned against criminalising Struggle songs, saying this would be the gravest insult to South Africans who fought for freedom.
Motshekga’s warning follows the Concourt’s ruling that nine members of Numsa, fired for singing a Struggle song with the lyrics “hit the boer” during an illegal strike in April 2013, should be reinstated.
Motshekga said yesterday that Struggle songs told of the journey travelled to bring about a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
“Struggle songs must not and should not be criminalised. It is important in this country that both black and white know this history. That is why there is the Apartheid Museum, to remind us of former president Nelson Mandela when he said: ‘Never again’,” Motshekga explained.
He said Struggle songs were part of South African history.
In a unanimous judgment, Justice Chris Jafta found that the objection by Ekurhuleni-based Duncanmec, a company specialising in manufacturing and designing truck-mounted or towed equipment, to the word “boer” was unfounded as its meanings were not racially offensive.
An elated Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said had the nine workers lost their case “it would have been very bad”.
“It would almost have been like slave masters determining how the slaves should be protesting and be defiant.
“We know that racism in this country is still rife and therefore when workers demonstrate or protest they are allowed to go to the archives to sing revolutionary songs that they identify with and in particular this song,” he said.
Jim said the song was from Port Elizabeth and was sung to intimidate an askari (an activist who turned apartheid collaborator) with fiery operatives threatening to climb on top of her house.
He said workers must be allowed to draw on the Struggle songbook and that the song meant they would stand together and do not need impimpis (spies).
”It says a lot about the long road we must still travel in this country to democratise the workplace, to deal with issues of transformation,” Jim said.
He added that it was often black workers who are the majority in production but when it comes to decision-making, running production and management level it is very conservative white males.
The EFF welcomed the judgment, saying in a statement that it was “an important step in dealing with white supremacy”.
“Often, white people, many who remain racist, seek to silence black peoples’ Struggle songs that were composed to call out their racism. These Struggle songs are historically made to give confidence and voice to black people when confronted with white supremacy, particularly in workplaces.”