by Hannes Wessels
In the heady early days of independence in Zimbabwe, when Robert Mugabe was the world’s most loved freedom fighter and euphoria abounded within and without the country it seemed a peaceful and prosperous future for the newly emancipated citizenry was all but assured.
Then in August 1980 there was a rude reminder that paradise was not quite at hand. After a lunch with the then Prime Minister Mugabe and Mozambique’s visiting President Samora Machel, Edgar Tekere, then a cabinet minister and Mugabe loyalist, decided he was going to “fight a battle”. With seven associates, he left the capital (reportedly pissed) to continue the fight and murdered an innocent white farmer at his home in the Arcturus agricultural district.
At the trial, the presiding judge, Justice John Pitman was overruled by two assessors (one of mixed race and the other black) in a highly politicised trial which resulted in the acquittal of Tekere and his accomplices. I remember this verdict coming as a big blow to my morale; I feared this was a sign of more to come and sadly I was right. Soon it became clear that the law would be selectively applied and whites would be judged differently from their black countrymen. It also became clear that the law, henceforth would be weaponised and used as a powerful tool to suppress and punish the political opposition in a long running campaign that continues today and straddles the racial divide.
South Africa is applying Zimbabwe’s gold standard. A recent outburst by the Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) leader Julius Malema was referred by the FW De Klerk Foundation to the South African Human Rights Commission. Malema does not deny saying, “We are not calling for the slaughtering of white people, at least for now. What we are calling for is the peaceful occupation of land and we don’t owe anyone an apology for that.” The implied threat is that white people can avoid an untimely and almost certainly, violent departure from this life if they don’t resist the confiscation of their worldly possessions.
But the protectors of our human rights were unmoved. Citing a Constitutional Court ruling the Commission was “.. of the view that certain words or expression will depend on whether [they are] uttered by a white person or a black person and against a white person or a black person. In accordance to the ConCourt jurisprudence, the identity of the offender and target group as belonging to a vulnerable group will have an impact in determining hate speech and robust speech must be protected so that marginalised persons can convey anger and frustration at the systems of social injustice.”
In a nutshell, what we now know, is that black people can threaten to kill white people and escape sanction and we must now accept that hate-speech is only credible and punishable if it emanates from a person of European ancestry because those with African roots are legally incapable of being ‘hateful’ within the letter of the law. As proof that Africans are incapable of real ‘hatred’ the Commissioners might have mentioned the enormous compassion shown by Chaka to all those blessed people who happened to reside in his dominions when he was on the top of his game. Or the kindness shown to the Tutsis by the Hutus when not slaughtering almost a million of them.
It is of little consolation to us, but selective application of the law is not unique to Africa. In 1998 President Bill Clinton, although clearly guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice, was cleared of the charges, simply because the Democratic Party closed ranks in deciding to discard the rule of law and protect their president. The Clinton family appears to enjoy immunity from prosecution to the present day. More recently, Jussie Smollett, despite having falsely reported to police that he was brutally assaulted by white Trump supporters, has had all charges against him dropped in what appears to be a racially motivated decision that sends a strong signal that the law will be applied differently, depending on the colour of the perpetrator.
The situation in the United Kingdom is no better. We now know, that the vile behaviour of people like Jimmy Savile and Liberal MP Cyril Smith was well know to the law enforcement agencies but they, for political and other reasons that are not entirely clear, decided not to do their duty. In Rotherham, the police were aware that hundreds of girls, some underage, were being brutally sexually abused by Pakistani ‘grooming’ gangs and they did nothing for fear of being accused of racism. At the same time the UK police are deployed in large numbers to monitor social media and pounce immediately upon anyone who may be showing signs of being anti-Muslim.
In South Africa we are constantly reminded we have the ‘best constitution in the world’. Americans like to tell us theirs is the greatest democracy in the world and the British pride themselves in being one of the freest counties in the world. There may be some truth in all the above, but the fact is constitutions and statute books are only as effective as the people charged with interpreting and enforcing them. Looking at the calibre of the guardians of our constitution I am filled with fear.