Veteran Journalist, John Qwelane has been cleared of wrongdoing by the
SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for the use of the word ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œcoconutÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â,
writes Phakamisa Ndzamela.
The SAHRC had received a complaint from Yusuf Abramjee, Group Head of News and Talk Programming at Primedia Broadcasting and Kieno Kammies, 702/567 Talk Show host, stating that the use of the word coconut ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œis not only insulting but discriminatoryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Abramjee and Kammies were labelled ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œcoconutsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â after they walked out of an inaugural imbizo of the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) where ANC president, Jacob Zuma was a guest speaker. They had walked out in solidarity with white colleagues who were not allowed to attend.
In its finding the SAHRC said it was not satisfied that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œKammies and Abramjee have proved on a balance of probabilitiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â that Qwelane had the subjective intention to be hurtful and that he [Qwelane] was in a position ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œto have foreseen that it may be hurtful and proceeded regardless in uttering the racial epithetÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
The commission discouraged South Africans from using the word coconut as it could ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œevoke feelings of indignityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
In response to the SAHRC ruling, Qwelane said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI am very relieved that the commission found that I am not guilty of hate speech when I was talking about tropical fruits.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Qwelane added that he was disappointed that the commission had not ruled on his complaint about ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ702ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s continuing practice of manufacturing news. I complained that this tendency has a deleterious effect on human rights. It cheats people, it lies to people, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s immoral and I find that the commission has not made a finding on that.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Abramjee and Kammies welcomed the commissionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s finding that the word coconut did not amount to hate speech in terms of the constititution
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe fully concur with the commissionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s findings and recommendations that the word should not be used or people should refrain from using the word. In summary we welcome the findings of the commission.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe hope Qwelane will take heed of the commissionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s finding and recommendations. Others who also use the word ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“coconutsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ in a racial context must also take note of these findings,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â they added.