'The word Boer could be deemed derogatory if used in a certain context'

Racial tensions and animosity are among the many social ills that form part of South Africa’s apartheid legacy.

The Constitution prohibits racism through safeguarding every person’s rights to dignity and equality.

People who publicly use derogatory words and other expressions of racism may face legal sanctions for defamation as well as criminal charges for crimen injuria.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) has weighed in on the use of the word "Boer".

Recently, in the Makhanya v St Gobain (2019) the CCMA held that the word “Boer” carries similar derogatory connotations to the word “k-word” and dismissed an application for unfair dismissal that arose from an African employee’s use of the word.

To discuss the recent ruling, Refilwe Moloto chats to Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr employment practice director Michael Yeates.

It is not as simple as to just say the Boer itself is derogative or anything of the sort, it has to deal with the context in which the word is used as well as the historical connotation the word has.

Michael Yeates, Employment practice director - Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

He says certain terms could be neutral in an ordinary context, however, when used in another context, they attract some sort of racist connotation.

In this particular matter, it involved a dispute between parties where the one individual said to another: 'You rule this place with an iron fist, you think its the time when the Boers were ruling.' In that context, that statement was termed to be racist.

Michael Yeates, Employment practice director - Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

Listen below to the full interview:


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