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.

44 Responses to “Hate speech ruling against Bongani Masuku, guest of BRICUP and UCU”

  1. zkharya Says:

    “The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has upheld a complaint against Bongani Masuku, the international secretary of COSATU, the South African trade union federation, made by the South African Board of Deputies.

    The Board complained after it obtained a recording of a public speech made by Masuku at Witwatersrand University on March 5. In it, Masuku repeatedly threatened that Jewish South Africans would be targeted because of their support for Israel.

    This included statements that Jewish lives would be made “hell”, that vigilante action would be taken against Jewish families suspected of having members serving in the Israeli military, and that Jews who continued to stand up for Israel should “not just be encouraged but forced to leave South Africa”.”


  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    The author of the article to which this is attached says that”
    “The University and College Union is willing to sacrifice its anti-racist credibility…”

    May I ask what credibility anyone who reads these pages honestly believes UCU still has with regard to anti-racism?

  3. zkharya Says:

    A further selection of Bongani, in his own words:

    “I came to one conclusion, that Jews are arrogant, not from being told by any Palestinian, but from what I saw myself.”

    “If the offices of the Zionist Federation and that loud-mouthed Rabbi and his SABJD were in town we would have marched there. All we wanted, as we still want to target are all who represent evil and suffering, whether its companies, individuals, offices, etc. We are working on identifying them now. It’s a pity if they are in residential areas, which unfortunately will not deter us. No one must enjoy peace while supporting and promoting the suffering of others, so goes our believe and we shall enforce it to its fullest.

    Surely, we cant blame Patrick for taking Gary’s email, which was sent to us as COSATU in its very raw form and we did not worry much which forum it came from, but we only knew it was written by a Zionist full of hatred and evil, thirsty for the blood of Palestinians and all who dare stand by the side of the oppressed. I am not sure he was not wrong in doing so.

    Finally, I am looking forward to the day when all Jews will openly say, we are not benefiting anything from what Israel is doing in our name, than hiding and silently consenting or grumbling under tables while Israel intensifies its massacres. Only then, am I sure will we need no march, no confrontation, but brotherly peace and happiness for all.”

    “In fact, all the people who deny that occupation is wrong must be encouraged to leave South Africa before they infect our society with much more racism. What kind of person refuse to acknowledge that Israeli is a murderous state for what it has done to Gaza, something is wrong with that person.”

    “I repeat, South Africa belongs to all who subscribe to the ideals of democracy, anti-racism and anti-racism and none of those who tolerate Israeli apartheid and racism should ever imagine it to be their home”


  4. EdwardP Says:

    Someone who went to the BRICUP meeting in London last night reported that it was a flood of antisemitic discourse, with 300+ present. Kasrils and Barghouti were reportedly worse than Masuku. Someone asked why UCU was hosting a speaker who had been condemned by the South African Human Rights Commission for hate speech. Hickey – who was chairing – instructed both the speakers and the audience not to answer this question and not to discuss it. This question was the only sign of any opposition to the hate, apparently.

  5. Jonathan Romer Says:

    The International Relations Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions has been found guilty of hate speech — specifically antisemitism — by the human rights commission of his own country. Am I the only one who thinks that ought to be worth a paragraph or two on the BBC’s web site, or any other major UK news outlet?

    Googling Masuku “hate speech” brings up Engage, some other blogs, a few local papers and a handful of South African media.

  6. Anthony Posner Says:

    It is interesting what stories “the media” choose to publicize.
    Can you imagine if the Israeli govt had confiscated a Nobel Peace Prize? Every single paper in the world would have had the story emblazoned on the front page for a week.

    What sort of impact did the confiscation of Shirin Ebadi’s nobel
    peace prize by the Iranian govt evoke? Did you hear any criticism from The UNHRC?

    • Jonathan Romer Says:

      Yes it is interesting. When Matan Vilnai was unwise enough to use the word “shoah” in reference to Hamas, it was picked up the same day by Reuters, the BBC and the Telegraph, and a day later by the Guardian, Mail, Times and Independent, plus the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the China Post in Taiwan. Not to mention all the Arab media and every web site in the inner solar system.

      But Masuku, from his position of influence, threatens compatriots for holding political views different than his, and is found guilty of violating their human rights? Not important enough to mention.

  7. zkharya Says:

    It sounds as though Masuku has been dropped.

    • Jonathan Romer Says:

      Dropped from what, Zkharya? If I correctly understood the comment by EdwardP, above, Masuku was at the meeting in London on the 4th.

  8. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    EdwardP, with respect to Hickey’s reported actions when he “instructed both the speakers and the audience not to answer this question and not to discuss it”, it appears that the UCU is now adding censorship to its other breaches of the usual conventions associated with freedom. Now freedom of speech is to be banned, as well as Israeli universities and academics.

  9. Absolutely Observer Says:

    do you have any further information?

  10. Absolutely Observer Says:

    And have they made a statement distancing themselves from him and his comments as a matter of principle?

    Or, are they playing a strategic game, knowing that hosting a person found guilty for race-hate and incitement to violence against Jews is a political liability?

    Or, indeed, have they decided to no longer to host him (having already done so), not for reasons of disagreement but because to do otherwise would be of “benefit” to “Zionists”?

    One wonders.

  11. zachary esterson, PhD student, Cardiff Says:

    Was he? I didn’t realise.

  12. EdwardP Says:

    He hasn’t been dropped.

  13. Because of the boycott campaign, UCU turns a blind eye to antisemitism « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

    […] Click here for more details and links on the current UCU hosting of Mongani Masuku. Posted in Uncategorized. Leave a Comment » […]

  14. vildechaye Says:

    I’m not being facetious here. Why should they drop him? They agree with him. If they had their way, they too would target all Jewish institutions that supported Israel explicitly or implicitly. It’s not them the campaign should be aimed at. It should be aimed at the wider public, who need to be made to understand just how fringe the UCU leadership actually are, in order to reduce them to the status of the SWP and like groups.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      But the sector needs a strong union which can stand up for scholarship in the face of the current consumer revolution in university education, stand up for collegiality, and resist the privatisation of research.

  15. Bill Says:

    “I’m not being facetious here. Why should they drop him? They agree with him.”

    Well now that a few small critical rays of sunshine have bright these issues to light, they need to retain the veneer of respectability. I suspect that had Masuku’s presence or statements had not come to light, he’d still have been there. Here, they can now diffuse the just criticism by saying (unless Hickey has is way) that they disinvited the “worst” speaker of the lot (of which we agree). Thus anyone criticizing them for their “restraint”

  16. Bill Says:

    “I’m not being facetious here. Why should they drop him? They agree with him.”

    Well now that a few small critical rays of sunshine have bright these issues to light, they need to retain the veneer of respectability. I suspect that had Masuku’s presence or statements had not come to light thanks to certain whistleblowers, he’d still have been there. And now, they can diffuse any just criticism by saying (unless Hickey has is way) that they disinvited the “worst” speaker of the lot (of which we agree) so why are the “zionists” still complaining? Anyone criticizing them for their impromptu “restraint” can be shaken off to the gullible onlooker as being dishonest. Bring in the antisemite w/o anyone outside knowing it, and it’s a win. “Disinvite” the antisemite when it becomes known, and you get some unearned credibility AND a chance to take cheap-but-scorable potshots at your “reacitonary” critics. It’s still a win.

    • Jonathan Romer Says:

      To make that work, you have to be willing to argue that you can only be expected to recognise hate speech when some authority, such as the SAHRC, identifies and labels it for you. To which the obvious response is: You’re a bunch of paid thinkers and self-avowed anti-racists. On what basis do you draw your salaries or claim credibility?

      • Bill Says:

        Huh? I need neither committees nor stinking badgers to recognize antisemitism when it’s staring me in the face.

        I didn’t need anyone to tell me that Tom Hickey let it slip that the bocyott was antisemetic in intent and design, He told me himself in his letter to the BMJ in language that was more explicit than I have ever seen on the matter. I don’t need to be told that Jenna Delich and the Activist List moderators have some serious “issues.” Linking and clearing said links to DavidDuke.Com (BTW, that’s David.Freaking.Duke.Com) will spell it out to me loud and clear. Likewise I don’t need to be told by a panel of SA makers-of-manners* that a call to lean on Jewish non-Israelis (SA citizens to boot) to denounce Israel — and should they chose not to for any reason, face retaliation — that someone who “globalizes” Anti-Zionism in that sense doesn’t really have issues with just Israel.

        And I sure as heck don’t have to be told by anyone that people who invite those with such views to speak to an organization that is supposed to support both anti-racism and academic freedom as a core values — well, better do as much as they can to keep such potentially bad publicity underwraps… As Edward’s contact said, suddenly Hickey himself didn’t want attendants to comment on the matter…

        *”Whistleblowers” in my quote were not the SAHRC but those here, at Harry’s and elsewhere who posted Masuku’s damning quotables.

        • Bill Says:

          BADGES! sheesh. Wisconsin on the brain tonight.

        • Jonathan Romer Says:

          Whoa up, Bill.

          By “you” I meant “they”: BRICUP et odious al. can only use “We disinvited him when he was condemned by the SAHRC” as defence if they are willing to contend that they didn’t recognise him as a bigot until someone else told them.

          And lay off the badgers. Speciesist. 🙂

        • Bill Says:

          No worries..

          “And lay off the badgers. Speciesist.”

          Cheeseheads and Badgers aren’t protected groups among Big 10 universities and alums, so I’m guilty as sin, but free as a bird.

  17. zachary esterson, PhD student, Cardiff Says:

    UCU-BRICUP may be waiting for the SAHRC ruling to be overturned in the SA courts.

    • Bill Says:

      I don’t really think you need a court ruling to know that what he said runs with happy abandon down the UK (and US) thou-shalt-not list of Harassment and Discrimination law (Targeting groups, check. Pervasive and unwelcome pattern blocking the targets’ reasonable ability to do their jobs, if you call making their lives hell, I’d say check. and so on). For get HRC type judgements, Masuku statements ( should qualify even under legally conservative interpretations of UK H-D law. Any Human Resources director will tell you that you don’t have to wait to be sued to fire, “resign” or harshly discipline someone if you have those kinds of statements on record from someone AND they start moving forward with such “policies.”

      I may be naive in thinking they’d cancel him to avoid embarrassment but I’m not the one who invited Masuku, when I’m party to such law. And the boycotters haven’t exactly waited on other rulings to move forward with their spectrum of stunts when it was something they wanted to do. They won’t even take their own legal advice, ask Jon Pike.

  18. Anthony Posner Says:

    Bill at December 6, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I would be shocked if they “disinvite” Masuku, and if you beleive that The UCU is going to so, then you are being naive.

    And of course, Masuku’s statements were widely available on the internet before he arrived. One only had to google “Bongani Masuku”.

  19. Anthony Posner Says:

    With regard to my previous comment, I refer to the attached:


  20. Anthony Posner Says:

    I would like to widen our discussion:


    As you can see, it refers to a new institute which is being set up set up at London University to study anti-semitism. Prof David Latchman who teaches at the university says…

    “We believe that the study of anti-Semitism is vital to the understanding of all racism and xenophobia. Our concern is that anti-Semitism is misunderstood and viewed solely as a Jewish issue. We believe anti-Semitism is a ‘societal illness’ – a rise in anti-Semitism signals something is wrong or worsening in society.”

    I mention this because I think that we can both agree that Masuku’s appalling statements should be condemned in the South African context, not only because they are anti-semitic, but because they are inherently racist and xenophobic.

    Prof Latchman refers to anti-semitism as a “societal illness”. In this regard, Bongani Masuku’s various statements are representative of a far wider malaise which has infected South African society. To put it in a nutshell, one might legitimately conclude, especially in the light of the recent xenophobic attacks, that South Africa is sick. Perhaps Masuku’s anti-semitism is indicative, not only of extreme anti-zionism, but also of an illness that signals that “something is wrong or worsening” in the wider South African society?

  21. Anthony Posner Says:

    Does anyone know whether Masuku spoke at any meetings whilst he was in The UK?

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  23. Hard-hitting campaigns or outright anti-Semitism? « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

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  24. Violence against Israeli speaker is not an isolated incident « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

    […] and College Union. The South African Human Rights Commission found Bongani Masuku guilty of hate speech against Jews a few days afterwards. UCU and Action for Palestine would or should have known about the charges […]

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  30. Clive Fraser Says:

    What I find paradoxical about all of this is that, despite its posturing for public consumption, UCU is definitelly not a non-racist organisation. It would be very interesting for people to investigate its longstanding treatment of Black people (by which term I mean people of black African and Asian extraction) who seek its assistance with complaints of racial discrimination and harassment at their institutions. I believe that UCU never above branch level, and only very, very rarely at branch level, finds evidence of racism. In that respect, they are like the Employment Tribunals and, I believe, they are motivated by the same concerns. So total is UCU’s lack of support for BAME members in racial disputes, it actually – cynically – uses on its website the successful ET cases of members that it opposed as a recruiting tool to show that there is racism in Higher Education and to suggest that UCU is committed to fighting racism. I believe that, unfortunately, UCU’s institutional racism, just like racism by a Vice-Chancellor, is something that is most unlikely to be exposed by an Employment Tribunal. It would strike at the heart of the establishment if it were, just as current sex abuse scandals have done, but there is much less sympathy for Black people than for children.

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