AfriForum asks reasons from Defence Minister over racist statements

The civil rights watchdog AfriForum gave Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence, 90 days to provide reasons for not acting against Maj. M.V. Mohlala of the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) Signal Formation at the Wonderboom Military Base in Pretoria. Mohlala published statements that are exceptionally offensive, racist and harmful, and that fall within the definition of hate speech. 

These events unfolded after two elderly men, Prof. Kobus Naude (76) and Rev. Braam van Wyk (80), had been cruelly assaulted by unknown attackers. Prof. Naude was stabbed in the chest with a butcher’s knife and did not survive the attack. Rev. Van Wyk sustained serious injuries.

After photos of a seriously-injured Van Wyk were published on Facebook, Maj. Mohlala replied to the post that the attacker “[s]hould actually have poked out his eyes and tongue so that the last people he would ever see, were the killers and he could go to his grave with the nightmare”. Mohlala also wrote: “Apartheid is in him. All of these old white people think we are stupid when they say they were opposed to apartheid. We will not forget what they have done. Now it is the white people’s turn.”

Mohlala’s statements clearly amount to hate speech. Article 105(1) of the National Defence Act (Act No 42 of 2002) also defines it as a criminal act when the verbal or physical conduct of any member of the SANDF denigrates, humiliates or shows hostility towards any person based on their race, gender, age, language or culture. According to this law, a person who is found guilty of such an offence may be sentenced to five years imprisonment. The local commander at the unit where Mohlala is stationed did not act further against him, except for reprimanding him and admonishing him not to bring the SANDF’s name into disrepute.

The purpose of AfriForum’s letter is to give the Minister an opportunity to provide reasons for not deciding to charge Mohlala criminally, as AfriForum plans on taking the Minister’s decision on legal review if no adequate reasons exist for this decision. The news of Mohlala’s brutal hate speech comes in the same week in which Vicki Momberg, an estate agent, was sent to jail for two years for shouting racist abuses at a police officer. According to Willie Spies, AfriForum’s Legal Advisor, both incidents are unacceptable, but it is shocking that Mohlala goes scot-free while a white woman who shouted racist abuses at a police officer is sent to jail for two years. AfriForum will do all in its power to fight unfair application of the rules of law and to see that equality before the law is promoted and that certain people are not judged heavier than others simply because of their race.

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