'Calling Malema a cockroach is not hate speech': Kenny Kunene refuses to apologise

13 September 2022 - 09:00
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Kenny Kunene refused to apologise to Julius Malema for labelling him an irritating cockroach. File photo.
Image: Veli Nhlapo/Sowetan Kenny Kunene refused to apologise to Julius Malema for labelling him an irritating cockroach. File photo.

Patriotic Alliance (PA) deputy chairperson Kenny Kunene has refused to apologise to EFF leader Julius Malema for labelling him an “irritating cockroach”, claiming it is not hate speech. 

Kunene appeared at the Johannesburg high court on Monday, where he was expected to account for calling Malema a cockroach. 

The outspoken businessman-turned-politician made the comments during an eNCA interview in November when he called Malema “a little frog” and “an irritating cockroach”.

Malema responded with a lawsuit against him. He wants Kunene to pay up to R1m for the slur. 

Speaking to media outside the court, Kunene said he would not withdraw his statement. 

He said Malema has called other politicians, including public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, worse things and the court ruled it was not hate speech. 

“What I said is not hate speech within the confines of the law. I don't see how the court will arrive at the conclusion that saying someone is an irritating cockroach is hate speech. He is an irritating cockroach,” said Kunene. 

Kunene said Malema is a “small boy” that is “emotionally fragile with low self-esteem”. 

“Perhaps Malema is too scared of me, he fears me. Even in court, he panics when he hears my name,” he said. 

According to News24, in papers submitted to the Johannesburg equality court, Malema’s counsel Kameel Premhid said the insult must be considered in the context of the Rwandan genocide.

“The term cockroach enjoys the particular sting that it does because of its links to the Rwandan genocide.

“The word cockroach means something and that something is offensive,” said Premhid.

In 2010, Malema called Helen Zille, then DA leader, a cockroach, and apologised in 2015 after he was called a cockroach by the former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete, who also apologised to him. 

Malema accepted Mbete’s apology and said: “I want to send an apology to the leader of the DA for having called her a cockroach myself, when I was very young.

“I now know what it feels like to be called a cockroach.”

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