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The South African Human Rights Commission has taken a local official to the country’s equality court over hate speech, with some of his remarks bordering on antisemitism.
An employee of the Gauteng province Sport and Recreation Department, Velaphi Khumalo, made the remarks in 2016 on Facebook, saying “he wants to cleanse this country [South Africa] of all white people.
We must do what Hitler did to the Jews.”
In another post, he reportedly said white people should be “hacked and killed like Jews.”
According to the commission, 19 complaints were made against Khumalo with the organization saying these remarks incited genocide on the grounds of race.
Khumalo could face jail time or a hefty fine of R150,000 ($11,000) if found guilty of crimen injuria by the court.
During court proceedings on Monday and Tuesday, commission advocate Mark Oppenheimer said Khumalo’s statements were a particularly “grave” instance of hate speech that amounts to incitement to genocide on the grounds of race.
“The respondent is a public official and member of the governing party and his function in employment puts him in a position of influence over the youth. [His] position of power is an aggravating factor that should be considered when determining what consequences should follow from his statements,” Oppenheimer argued, according to the TimesLive news site.
However, on Tuesday, Khumalo reportedly denied his comments were hate speech and requested his case be dropped by the court.
Meanwhile, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies laid charges of crimen injuria and intimidation against three individuals for antisemitic hate speech.
The country has been grappling with an increase in antisemitism over the past few weeks. One of the individuals charged stated “The Holocaust will look like a picnic after we’re done with you [Jews].”
The board said it will also shortly be instituting proceedings.
Chairman Shaun Zagnoev said “the unusually virulent and overtly threatening nature of the comments posted was the reason why the SAJBD had decided to lodge both criminal and civil charges.
“It is totally unacceptable that anyone in South Africa should be defamed, demeaned and threatened in such horrific terms on account of their religion, race, ethnicity, or other such grounds,” he said.
“We are appalled by the sheer depths of the hatred expressed against our Jewish community by these three individuals and will do whatever is necessary to make them accountable.”
The organization added that it had also worked with one of the recipients of the offensive messages to help him lay criminal charges in his personal capacity.
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