There are days, believe it or not, when I feel that there might still be some vestige of sanity in South Africa, some small thing to cling on to and give us hope.

I hasten to add that this feeling of goodwill to all men (and women, of course, plus any who may be transitioning between the two) has nothing to do with the fact that Boney M is playing in many shopping malls at this time of year.

Neither does it have anything to do with the fifth cavalry coming to the rescue of our sickly national airline. As someone who likes to think he’s been around the block a few times, I feel I have to remind people that putting SAA in ‘business rescue’ is similar to putting a patient on a life-support machine. The similarities are that the life-support machine can be turned off at any stage which, as fans of Grey’s Anatomy will know, results in a rather irritating continuous note from the machine and a flat line on the screen. There is also the matter of recovery. How many people on life-support eventually leap out of bed claiming that they feel like partying? I would suggest very few and it is the same with businesses. Very few survive and one might argue that it would be a good time for SAA to flat-line in order to save the family (i.e. the taxpayer) any more unnecessary grief.

But I digress. My feeling of hope, faint though it may be, comes from the recent Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment – overturning a High Court ruling that an article by Jon Qwelane from 2008 constituted hate speech – which found that the current definition of hate speech is unconstitutional. In the article (‘Call me names, but gay is not OK’), Mr Qwelane expressed his disapproval of homosexuality. Following the hysterical outcry against him I wrote a column supporting Qwelane’s right to express his opinion, even if I didn’t share it.

The SCA has told Parliament to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better definition for hate speech than the current one. At the moment, anything which can offend the sensibilities of any thin-skinned wannabe victim is hate speech. Since being a professional victim has now become something of a national pastime the chances of any of us being found guilty of using hate speech increases in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be offended, often on behalf of other people.

One of the more irritating habits of ‘woke’ white lefties is to take offence on behalf of their black fellow citizens. The novelist Lauren Beukes did this a couple of years ago at the Franschhoek Literary Festival when she bravely told Eugene de Kock to leave because his presence (he was the subject of a new book being discussed) was upsetting people of colour. The arrogance of people like Beukes beggars belief and I was delighted when my former Sunday Times colleague, Bongani Madondo, penned a piece titled ‘We don’t need white liberals to speak for us’ in response.

‘By asking De Kock to leave, the privileged liberal – and it doesn’t matter that there were black folks who were traumatised – is claiming the agency and urgency of black people to do things for themselves.’

Who knows what went through Beukes’s white-guilt mind? A plea in mitigation is that she was educated at Roedean and is almost certainly suffering from a debilitating case of white privilege syndrome like so many others who have now become ‘woke’. Presumably she thought that any blacks present at that particular literary festival session were either too dim or too terrified to recognize De Kock or to recognize what he represented. On the other hand, those same people may possibly have been interested to hear what he had to say for himself after serving 20 years of the two life sentences handed down to him. Bad luck on that one, though, because the white madam decides what is suitable for black ears and what isn’t.

I had my own small problem with ‘hate speech’ after my now iconic final Sunday Times column was referred to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). According to correspondence received from the SAHRC dated 20 May 2008, three complainants, Mr Hale Qangule, Prof Kopano Ratele and Mr Crispin Hemson alleged that the column was:

‘discriminatory and offensive in a racist manner and that the ideas it puts forward are damaging and central to the continued phenomena of racism. Further that the article is hateful, psychologically injurious, likely to incite violence and impair the dignity of Africa people. Further that the article promotes hatred of Africans by belittling them blah blah blah.’

I had no idea that I had so much power in my pen.

Happily, the SAHRC regarded the complaints in the same light as I did (complete BS) and never bothered to proceed with any action. That may have been due to my witty response that, not being medically trained, I was unqualified to judge whether any Africans had suffered any more psychological damage than usual as a result of my Sunday column and that I was still awaiting news of the outbreak of violence that could be directly linked to my shimmering prose. Unfortunately, impaired dignity was a matter for the ‘impairee’ and was out of my control.

Earlier this year, a flag was ruled to constitute ‘hate speech’. Thank heavens for the SCA, because when an inanimate object such as a piece of coloured cloth can be judged by a court to be criminally offensive then we know we are no longer in the realms of sanity.

A new, clearer definition of hate speech is to be welcomed. What we have to avoid, though, is any hyper sensitive idiot claiming hate speech just because they have had their day spoilt by a forthright opinion from somebody they don’t like. Maybe a halfway house such as a definition of ‘mild disapproval’ or even ‘mild loathing’ would be a good idea. And if you are vain enough to bring an action for hate speech that fails in court you should be forced to pay all legal costs to deter you from any future frivolous litigation. That seems eminently fair.

[Picture: By Marcopieterse,]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the IRR.

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After 27 years in financial markets in London and Johannesburg David Bullard had a mid life career change and started writing for the Sunday Times. His "Out to Lunch" column ran for 14 years and was generally acknowledged to be one of the best read columns in SA with a readership of 1.7mln every week. Bullard was sacked by the ST for writing a "racist" column in 2008 and carried on writing for a variety of online publications and magazines. He currently writes for and