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Gordhan, Malema case puts hate speech in focus

Equality law expert Justine Limpitlaw said while the EFF leader’s comments were offensive, they're not against the law.

FILE: EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: @EFFSouthAfrica/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - As Minister Pravin Gordhan plans his next move and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) celebrates its court victory against him, their case has once again sparked debate about hate speech and offensive rhetoric.

On Thursday, the Equality Court ruled against Gordhan after he challenged EFF leader Julius Malema’s utterance, which he deemed as hate speech.

Last year, Malema called the public enterprises minister a "dog of white monopoly capital" while addressing supporters outside the state capture commission in Johannesburg.

Gordhan sought an apology from Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu and R150,000 in damages.

But Judge Roland Sutherland dismissed his application with costs, saying it did not fall within provisions of the Equality Act.

Equality law expert Justine Limpitlaw said while the EFF leader’s comments were offensive, they were not against the law.

She explained the difference between hate speech and harmful speech.

“They were saying we despise you Pravin Gordhan and it wasn’t we despise you, Indian man. That’s the critical distinction.”

But Gordhan is not giving up and is exploring other legal routes to hold Malema accountable.

Limpitlaw is not convinced he will win.

“I don’t think there’s much hope of an appeal here. Defamation, definitely!”

The EFF welcomed the ruling, saying Gordhan sought to suppress Malema’s right to free speech.

(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)

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