08/04/2008 19:31 - (SA)
Johannesburg - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich has been cleared of a hate-speech charge, said the SA Human Rights Commission (HRC) said on Tuesday.
Commission chairperson Jody Kollapen said in a written response to the complaint: "His response was solicited, to some extent, having been provoked by allegations of violations of farm workers' rights."
The purpose of Ehrenreich's statements was to "identify the atrocities" and encourage people to defend themselves through social solidarity.
By Ehrenreich's own admission, he used extreme and intemperate language.
In September 2006, Agri-Western Cape lodged a complaint with the HRC, accusing Ehrenreich of inciting hatred against white farmers.
This was in response to allegations by a 22-year-old farm worker that she had been raped by white farmers in the Rawsonville area. She also claimed the farmers had seriously assaulted a 16-year-old boy.
'The last resort'
Ehrenreich reportedly told a gathering at a rally that Cosatu was declaring war on farm owners.
"We are opposed to violence, but if that's what it takes to push bad farmers in the right direction, we must smash them.
"...If farmers continue, like mad dogs, to violate the rights of our farm workers then we have to beat them... However, this is the last resort.
"They will shit if they don't stop. There is already blood on the farm workers... unless this stops, there will be blood on the farmers... We will grab the land and give it to the rightful owners," he said.
The allegations against the farmers were later found to be untrue, said Kollapen.
"If reasonably interpreted, and taking into consideration all relevant circumstances and the specific context within which these statements were made, his utterances could not be interpreted as 'advocacy based on hatred' constituting 'incitement to cause to harm' as provided for in section 12(2)(c) of the constitution," the commission found.
It said Ehrenreich was responding to perceived serious allegations of violence against farm workers.
His statements should be viewed against the backdrop of media reports about the problems in the country, in particular the Rawsonville area.