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Zimbabwean association lodges ‘hate speech’ criminal complaint against SA’s new Sports Minister

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A criminal complaint has been made against incoming sports, arts and culture minister Gayton McKenzie, leader of the Patriotic Alliance party, for “incitement of xenophobic violence, hate speech and intimidation”.

The complaint, lodged at Sandton Police Station by Advocate Simba Chitando on Monday on behalf of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holder Association (Zepha), says McKenzie incited South Africans to “murder vulnerable foreign nationals in hospital and, by implication, outside hospital”.

Read: Meet South Africa’s GNU cabinet

“McKenzie intentionally, for admitted political reasons, communicated his desire to harm foreign nationals receiving treatment in South African hospitals in a manner that could cause their death, in public broadcasts on national television,” says the complaint.

It adds that this violates the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Act.

McKenzie’s 2022 threat to personally switch off foreign nationals’ oxygen machines in hospitals was widely quoted in the South African press.

This came shortly after a video of then Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba – who is now premier of the province (since June) – verbally attacking a Zimbabwean patient for coming to SA rather than staying in Zimbabwe for treatment, claiming that foreign nationals were overburdening the healthcare system.

McKenzie later told eNCA: “If there is a South African, Zimbabwean and Mozambican patient on oxygen and I see a South African patient born and bred in SA, I will turn the oxygen off so that the South African can live.”

This prompted the Progressive Health Forum (PHF) to call for criminal sanctions against those who incite murder.

PHF convener Dr Aslam Dasoo told News24 that both Ramathuba and McKenzie’s comments were the language of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Anti-immigrants trend

This is not the first time McKenzie has attracted the attention of human rights groups for his stance on immigrants.

Last year public interest law centre Section27 condemned comments he made seeking to deny children of illegal foreign nationals places in SA schools, reminding him that basic education is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic.

The Immigration Act does not debar children of illegal immigrants for enrolment at schools in SA.

Zepha says it wants the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority to take lawful action against McKenzie for his xenophobic and hate speech comments which amount to an incitement to violence. Failure to do so would be in breach of the United Nations Durban Declaration against racism and xenophobia. It would also violate domestic legislation and the Constitution.

‘My main mandate – mass-deportation’ says McKenzie

Responding to a recent TimesLIVE article by Chitando threatening McKenzie with prosecution – if not in SA then by the International Criminal Court – the sports minister-in-waiting responded on X (formerly Twitter):

“He (Chitando) is smart because he has very good reason to be concerned about my inclusion [in the cabinet]. I would rather walk away than forgetting [sic] my main mandate which is mass-deportation. Parliament will know our chant ‘Abahambe’ (they must go).”

McKenzie, a former criminal-turned-politician, is accused by Zepha of targeting Zimbabweans with hateful comments that constitute incitement to violence.

Zepha says McKenzie’s comments also fall foul of the Intimidation Act.

“For the above reasons, there is overwhelming evidence that McKenzie MP is guilty of the criminal offences of incitement of violence, hate speech and intimidation, which are serious criminal offences,” reads the complaint.

“I expect the Saps and NPA to fulfil their connotational mandate and hold McKenzie accountable for his unlawful and criminal conduct, which could cause widespread xenophobic violence and the murder of foreign nationals in the Republic of South Africa.”

Sports appointment

Prior to his appointment to the sports ministry, there was speculation that McKenzie was angling for the Police or Home Affairs portfolios.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the DA’s Leon Schreiber as the new minister of Home Affairs, displacing Aaron Motsoaledi, who returns to the Health ministry.

Motsoaledi and Chitando frequently waged battles in the courts and the media over the issue of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP). The courts ruled that Motsoaledi had unlawfully terminated the ZEP system, allowing ZEP holders to remain in SA until Home Affairs completes a proper consultation process as required by the court.