Hate speech ruling against Bongani Masuku, guest of BRICUP and UCU

Background on Engage:

The British Commission for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) with the University and College Union (UCU), plan to host a speaker, Bongani Masuku, who has been under investigation by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for a complaint of hate speech lodged by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) on March 26th 2009. The SAHRC recently ruled to uphold the complaint, finding that statements Bongani Masuku had made did amount to hate speech.

Copied to the SAJBD, here is the ruling of the South African Human Rights Commission.

From it:

“21. On the day in question Mr Masuku was speaking to students who included both Jewish Zionists and Palestinian supporters. There appeared to already have been noted tension between these two groups. Therefore by Mr Masuku making those remarks he surely intended to incite violence and hatred that was already potentially imminent amongst these two groups. COSATU members of Palestinian supporters present at this rally could easily have been incited to hate, and even attack their Jewish counterparts. This is exactly what Section 16(2) of the Constitution seeks to prevent.

22. Mr Masuku’s heated statements made amidst an already tense audience appeared to advocate hatred against Jews and all other supporters of Israel. This is inciting violence based on religion, an area which freedom of expression does not protect.

23. Mr Masuku in his response to the allegations put to him by the South African Human Rights Commission, states that he was heckled by what he refers to “as a particular section of the audience – most of whom seemed to be members of the South African Union of Jewish Students”. This statement leave little doubt that the references made by him referred to Jews.

24. The statement that “it will be hell” for any group of students, taken in its proper context is intimidatory and threatening. It is conveyed as a warning to the effect that should one support Israel, one would suffer harm. Harm for the purposes of Section 16(2), as confirmed in the Freedom Front decision is wider than mere physical harm.

25. In responding to the allegations relating to the emails sent by him, Mr Masuku fails to deal with the context in which he used the words “…whether Jew or whomsoever does so, must not just be encouraged but forced to leave…” These words in effect come across that unless South Africans agree with his views they should be forced to leave South Africa.

26. In view of the content of the speech made and emails sent by Mr Masuku it is clear that the expressions amount to the advocacy of hatred and thus would not fall under the protection of Section 16(1) of the Constitution.

27. The comments and statements made are of an extreme nature that advocate and imply that the Jewish and Israeli community are to be despised, scorned, ridiculed and thus subjecting them to ill-treatment on the basis of their religious affiliation. A prima facie case of hate speech is clearly established as the statements and comments by Mr. Masuku are offensive and unpalatable to society.


28. In light of the above, the Commission hereby finds that the statements made by Mr. Bongani Masuku amounts to hate speech.”

The University and College Union is willing to sacrifice its anti-racist credibility to welcome and host a person who unashamedly, as an anti-racist and without a trace of irony, demands that his country’s Jews be menaced. This is a perversion of the necessary and valid campaign for Palestinian rights and a perversion of anti-racism.

Update: Harry’s Place – Bongani Masuku’s claimed constitutional right to hate speech. South Africa’s Palestine Solidarity Committee alleges gullibility on the part of their country’s Human Rights Commission, accuse it of issuing “a pack of lies”, accuse South Africa’s organised Jewish community of “constant, frivolous, and false accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’”, and declare their intention to appeal against the ruling above.

UCU holding a secret boycott strategy conference. Bongani Masuku to be a guest of UCU.

On Fair Play Campaign Group.

Bongani Masuku, the International Secretary of COSATU (the South African TUC), is touring the UK in the next few days. He, together with Ronnie Kasrils and Omar Barghouti, is speaking at SOAS, Leeds and Manchester Universities, and the Scottish TUC in Glasgow. The tour, to promote a boycott of Israel, is organised by BRICUP.

Bongani Masuku has made inflammatory and threatening statements against the South African Jewish community because of their support for Israel. Alana Pugh-Jones of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies says:

Specifically, Masuku had openly and repeatedly stated that COSATU would target Jewish supporters of Israel and “make their lives hell” and urged that “every Zionist must be made to drink the bitter medicine they are feeding our brothers and sisters in Palestine”.

Ami on Harry’s Place highlighted more examples of Masuku’s threats, and ENGAGE reported that South African Human Rights Commission ruled that Masuku’s comments are Hate Speech. If Masuku does not apologise within 15 days, the Human Rights Commission will take him to court. The commission found:

The comments and statements made are of an extreme nature that advocate and imply that the Jewish and Israeli community are to be despised, scorned, ridiculed and thus subjecting them to ill-treatment on the basis of their religious affiliation. A prima facie case of hate speech is clearly established as the statements and comments by Mr. Masuku are offensive and unpalatable to society.

Fair Play can now reveal that Bongani Masuku is actually coming to Britain as a guest of UCU.

UCU is hosting a conference on Saturday to strategise on how best to boycott Israel. The agenda of the conference is a secret. The venue is a secret, as are the speakers and attendees. UCU has not told its own membership about the conference and has refused requests for further information – perhaps the conference itself was supposed to be a secret too.

However, we have learnt that Bongani Masuku is one of the invited speakers, along with Kasrils and Barghouti. The BRICUP tour is only an “spin-off” event. UCU has indicated that is paying for international visitors to the conference; this would mean that it is paying for Masuku’s visit to Britain.

We are shocked that UCU would host someone like Makusu, who incites violence against Jews in his home country, as an honoured guest. However, we are not surprised. At its annual conference this year, UCU voted not to investigate why so many of its Jewish members had resigned. One of the arguments against this proposed investigation was that it would undermine the Union’s ability to campaign for the Palestinians.

So UCU members’ subscription money is being used, we believe, to pay for Bongani Masuku to spread his incitement in the UK. UCU is trying to keep this a secret from its own members. UCU is running closed-door strategy meetings on a boycott of Israel, despite its own repeated legal advice that “making a call to boycott Israeli institutions would run a serious risk of infringing discrimination legislation“ and therefore “an academic boycott of Israel would be unlawful and cannot be implemented“. And Bongani Masuku is a key guest at this conference.

UCU no longer has any credibility as an anti-racist organisation.

Bricup meeting Leeds – Bongani Masuku no longer speaking ?

An Engage supporter at Leeds University has just sent us a scan of the flyer for Tuesday’s Leeds meeting and Bongani Masuku is no longer listed as one of the speakers. He is however (at least at the time of writing) still on the Facebook group page.

Update Dec 15th, Student Direct: “Jaime Woodcock, a member of Action Palestine, said that Bongani Masuku missed the talk [Dec 7th] “to return to South Africa. He had to return to appear in court.””


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