AfriForum is planning to take controversial Springbok flanker to court for hate speech.

The fact that the disciplinary hearing of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) against the Springbok rugby player, Luke Watson, could not go ahead, due to technical issues, has resulted in the civil rights initiative AfriForum officially instructing its legal team to go ahead with an investigation into the possibility of taking Watson to the Equality Court on a complaint of hate speech in response to his remark that “the problem with SA rugby is that it is controlled by Dutchmen”.

According to AfriForum, legal action is essential because Watson has also to date refused to respond to a lawyer’s letter sent to him in October by AfriForum, in which the organisation demands of him to withdraw his hurtful remarks in writing and to apologise for these statements unconditionally.

Watson made his hurtful remarks re the Springbok emblem and Afrikaners when he appeared as guest speaker at the Umbumbo rugby festival at the University of Cape Town on 3 October 2008.

According to Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, in the light of the failure of SARU’s disciplinary hearing, his organisation has no other alternative than to make efforts itself now to call Watson to account for his polarising and hurtful remarks. Watson’s wounding remarks regarding so-called “Dutchmen” are not included in the recording of his speech, as -according to sources – the remarks were made during the session for questions and answers after his speech.

Kriel alleges that Watson has had ample opportunities to deny that he had used the hurtful language, but he has not done so yet and rather uses the defence that the remarks were made during a private conversation. “This leaves no doubt with AfriForum that Watson indeed used the hurtful language,” Kriel added.

Kriel pointed out that Watson may be summoned to appear in the Equality Court in terms of Article 10 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (Act 4 of 2000). This article entails that “… no person may … communicate words based on … prohibited grounds (of which race and ethnic origin is one), against any person (including groups), that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to – a) be hurtful; b) be harmful …; c) promote or propagate hatred.”

According to Kriel, AfriForum regards Watson’s statements not only to be hurtful, but inter alia to be harmful as well. In terms of this act, the Equality Court may order someone who contravenes the conditions of the act to apologise unconditionally and to pay damages in the shape of a donation to a suitable organisation.