The Human Rights Commission (HRC) believes that Cosatu’s statements that farmers are murderers and rapists merely cause hurt feelings and do not amount to a human rights violation.
“With such a statement, the HRC has once again shown that they judge matters unilaterally and ultimately do little to protect or promote human rights, although this is their primary task,” said Bennie van Zyl, general manager of TLU SA. “We will certainly not let the matter rest, as our primary task is to protect the sustainability of farmers.”
TLU SA approached the HRC in March after Cosatu released a national statement on Human Rights Day claiming that farm workers are being exploited and abused throughout the country.
The statement further said that farmers rape, assault and murder their workers.
TLU SA indicated that the comments are generalisations and devoid of any truth. It also contributes to worsening the relationship between farmers and their workers and increases the incidence of farm attacks as it incites people – not necessarily farm workers – to violence.
TLU SA insisted that Cosatu should publicly apologise to all the farmers in the country and pay R5 million in reparation to victims of farm attacks.
However, the HRC rejected the complaint on 12 April 2023 and said the statement does not constitute hate speech.
In further discussions with the HRC, TLU SA again emphasised that such statements incite hatred and threaten their safety. The HRC, however, maintained that – although “the language used is not ideal”, – the statement is not hate speech and merely “hurtful”.
Meanwhile, the Appeals Court ruled in April that displaying the old South African flag, even in one’s own home, is indeed hate speech as it incites and promotes hatred.
“We would like to establish with the HRC how they distinguish between hurtful and hate speech,” said Van Zyl. “For us, displaying an old flag may be hurtful to some people, but certainly not hateful. On the other hand, statements that farmers rape, assault and murder their workers are hateful in the worst form.
“We would also like to know if it would be considered hate speech if TLU SA said Cosatu members are arsonists and criminals because one of their members was possibly involved in burning pack stores in Kirkwood.
“The problem – apart from the fact that the HRC clearly acts unilaterally and that some people’s human rights in the country are being treated more equally than others – is that the HRC wants to reason about terminology while people’s lives are being threatened.”
TLU SA has again written to the HRC regarding the issues mentioned above.
TLU SA further insists that the HRC should make the 37 000 pieces of evidence (complaints and case numbers) of assault, rape and murder against farmers available before dismissing the matter out of hand.
Read: Cosatu – ‘Farmers rape, assault and murder their workers’ – TLU SA files hate speech complaint
Read the original article in Afrikaans on TLU SA