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Another hate speech controversy for ANC youth leader

Two weeks ago, Julius Malema, leader of the South African ANC’s youth wing, was convicted of hate speech for speculating that the woman who had accused President Jacob Zuma of rape had actually had a "nice time" because she stayed for breakfast. Now, Malema is at the center of another speech controversy, this time after ...

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The youth leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) Julius Malema address the ANC rally in Johannesburg on April 19, 2009. On March 15, 2010 a South African court found Malema guilty of hate speech, after he said President Jacob Zuma's rape accuser had "a nice time". According to court papers, Julius Malema told university students in Cape Town last year that: "When a woman didn't enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money." AFP PHOTO / Alexander JOE (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

Two weeks ago, Julius Malema, leader of the South African ANC’s youth wing, was convicted of hate speech for speculating that the woman who had accused President Jacob Zuma of rape had actually had a "nice time" because she stayed for breakfast. Now, Malema is at the center of another speech controversy, this time after singing an apartheid era song called "Shoot the Boer" at a rally: 

[The ANC] says a campaign by white activists to get the song banned is an attempt to "elevate apartheid agents as victims".

It wants the Constitutional Court to overturn a ruling by a white judge that the words amount to hate speech. South African’s Afrikaans-speakers are known as Boers, a word which also means farmer.

The obvious point here is that Malena owes his newfound notoriety to the infamous "Streisand effect." The court battles over these outrageous statements have turned a not-particularly-high-ranking ANC official into an internationally-known figure. Whether it’s Malena, Geert Wilders, or Ann Coulter, there’s nothing professional provacateurs love better than being able to play the free-speech martyr, and it’s generally best not to give them the opportunity.

On the other hand, the more firebrands like Malena become the face of the ANC, the easier it is for Afrikaaner nationalist parties to play on their constituents insecurities under black rule. It’s a win-win for the two sides in this conflict, though probably a lose-lose for South Africa’s political culture. 

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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