Conference guest guilty of hate speech

Bongani Masuku

Bongani Masuku

One of two South African guests believed to have been invited to a University and College Union conference in London to discuss a boycott of Israel has been found guilty of hate speech.

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 Mr Masuku at Witwatersrand University on March 5. In it, Mr 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”.

In its ruling, the SAHRC said: “(Mr Masuku’s) 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.”

The conference to which they were invited has been shrouded in secrecy. The JC understands that it has been organised as a private event with delegates from British trades unions who are sympathetic to boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel being invited personally.

Mr Masuku, , the former Cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils, who is Jewish, and Palestinian trade union representative Omar Barghouti will then be embarking on a mini-tour of Britain organised by the British Committee for Universities in Palestine (BRICUP). They will be speaking in London, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Speaking on behalf of the Stop the Boycott cmapaign Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said “We are shocked that UCU would host someone like Makusu, who incites violence against Jews in his home country, as an honoured guest.

“However, we are not surprised. At its annual conference this year, UCU voted not to investigate why so many of its Jewish members had resigned. One of the arguments against this proposed investigation was that it would undermine the Union’s ability to campaign for the Palestinians. UCU should be embarrassed and ashamed. Inviting a perpetrator of racist incitement to help plan their boycott campaign proves once again that UCU no longer has any credibility as an anti-racist organisation.”

Last updated: 12:19pm, December 7 2009