An old anti-apartheid struggle song about shooting white farmers is now considered hate speech in South Africa.
In his ruling Monday, Johannesburg Judge Collin Lamont said the lyrics of “Shoot the Boer” were “derogatory” and “dehumanizing,” and “the words of one person inciting others ... that's how a genocide can start,” the Global Post reports.
The song was recently revived at policial rallies by Julius Malema, firebrand leader of the ruling African National Congress’s Youth League, before he was taken to civil court by an Afrikaner lobby group worried the song could incite violence against white farmers.
Malema has argued that lines such as “They are scared, the cowards. You shoot the Boer. They rob, these dogs,” have been taken out of context.
The lines refer to Afrikaners, the white minority ethnic group who ruled the country during the Apartheid era.
Lamont said that if Malema sings “Shoot the Boer” in the future, he faces criminal charges and possibly prison.
The ANC said it was “appalled” by the court’s decision.
“We view this judgment as an attempt to rewrite the South African history, which is not desirable and unsustainable. This ruling flies against the need to accept our past and to preserve our heritage as an organization and as a people,” the ANC said in a statement.
After the ruling was announced, supporters of Malema gathered outside the courthouse to angrily sing “Shoot the Boer.” They were not stopped from singing.
Malema wasn’t present at the scene.
The Global Post writes that “it was a marked change from his appearances at a court hearing in April, where he arrived flanked by bodyguards armed with assault rifles, and had Winnie Madikizela-Mandela — the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela — at his side, lending her support in the case.”
But al-Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa says she suspects Malema will soon emerge to sing the song in public again, because “he has done it before.”
“Just when you think South Africa is moving forward with regards to race issues,” Mutasa writes, “events like this remind us the country has a long way to go.”