Agri SA may appeal SAHRC ruling on Sexwale

Johannes Möller says minister's remarks compromised rural safety


Agri SA reserves its rights to appeal against the Human Rights Commission's finding regarding a hate speech complaint lodged last year against minister Tokyo Sexwale. The Human Rights Commission's ruling that minister  Sexwale's references to "very, very evil farmers" who evict farm workers from their farms -  despite the fact that he did not substantiate his statements - did not serve as sufficient justification that they "were intended to cast identifiable or commercial farmers in general in a bad light". On this basis the Commission found that Minister Sexwale's remarks should not be regarded as hate speech.

It is, nevertheless, enlightening that the Commission does caution against the kind of utterances as made by minister Sexwale by recommending: "that all South Africans, and in particular those in public office or in decision making positions, should refrain from making utterances or statements, and expressing opinions which have the potential to be unpalatable and/or offensive to others.  Instead these officials should use such public platforms to communicate in a manner that respects and upholds the rights of others, promotes the values of the Constitution and contributes towards the building of a nation that is united in its diversity".

The commercial farming community experience generalisations such as those expressed by Minister Sexwale as offensive and intended to render worker-employer relationships at farm level suspect. In virtually all cases where farm labour practices were questioned in the past, the factual basis thereof could not be confirmed.

Such utterances, however, compromise rural safety and foster climate for a "rural dweller class" which will require the restructuring of land ownership and of tenure rights on farm land. This approach was confirmed in draft policy documents and legislation of the past year.

It is not Agri SA's intention to become involved in a dispute with Minister Sexwale. This organisation, however, has a responsibility on behalf of the farming community - which is severely affected by crime and assaults - to challenge the credibility of this type of statement and to point out the implications thereof.  For this reason Agri SA calls on senior politicians to formulate and convey their views on matters such as this with the required consideration and sensitivity.

Statement issued by Mr Johannes Möller, President Agri SA, August 25 2011

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