South Africa: Controversy over whether ‘hate song’ should be banned



South Africa:
Controversy over whether ‘hate song’ should be banned

The Irish singer Bono’s alleged defense of a controversial song, ‘Shoot the Boer’, has triggered heated debate and widespread outrage in South Africa. The country’s Supreme Court is currently considering whether the song should be banned for violating the white farmers’ rights.

The ANC are fighting the ban calling the song part of their heritage, since it was part of the organisation’s struggle against the apartheid regime.

Since the regime fell in 1994, more than 3,000 white farmers have been murdered, and the debate about the song ‘Shoot the Boer’ has made headlines in South African press numerous times. The general view is that the song was written to encourage racial hatred — and that it should be compared with hate speech.

Bono drawn into the debate
Bono, the frontman for Irish rock band U2, entered the debate about the song when he performed in South Africa on 12 February 2011. He was quoted in the South African newspaper Sunday Times as saying: “I was a kid and I’d sing songs I remember my uncles singing… rebel songs about the early days of the Irish Republican Army.” He then proceeded to sing a song whose lyrics spoke of carrying guns and readying them for action.

“That anyone should think we were pro-this, it’s barking barking mad and I think it’s been stirred up,” he told Talk Radio 702 a couple of weeks later.

Bono explained that he was a bit puzzled by the furore over the report in the Sunday Times as he felt he had not been equivocal in his comments, having said it was “pretty dumb” to sing such songs in the wrong context.

He said he had been making a point that there were Irish songs on both sides of the country’s political troubles that were offensive to the other community.

“You can’t pretend they don’t exist, that they become folk music, but it is widely irresponsible and worse than that to use these songs to stir up more hate,” Mail & Guardian quoted him for saying.

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Search: ‘Bono’ + ‘Boer’


Sunday Times – 13 February 2011:

‘Bono reflects on “shoot the boer” song’

Newstime – 13 February 2011:

‘U2 Bono?’

Mail & Guardian – 2 March 2011:

‘Bono says no support for ‘shoot the boer’ song’

The News York Times – 30 April 2011:

‘Shoot the Boer’ On Trial

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