Translation and Interpreting in 150+ Languages
Shoot the Boer
May 27, 2011 - By: - In: In the News / Awards - 11 comments

Call it incitement to murder? Boers are the descendants of Dutch who fought the Xhosa for centuries for control of the veldt of South Africa. Bad blood is boiling ever since ANCYL (African National Congress Youth League) President Julius Malema added a catchy little number to his vocal set, which, despite court order, he was still singing on April 1. Catch it on YouTube here, with this headline: “ANCYL president Julius Malema has defied a court ruling and has sung the revolutionary song ‘Kill the Boer’ with a twist….the youth leader made some adjustments to the lyrics and sang ‘Dubula ibhunu (Shoot the Boer)’ and then ‘Kiss the Boer’.” (Huh?)

I took the lyrics through translation memory and we got very good repetition, since the two phrases “shoot the Boer” and “shoot shoot” accounted for around 80% of the whole project, which is a very good rate of repetition, but I suppose in part because of the monotony of the lyrics, the defense argued that it wasn’t the word that was upsetting people, but the translation, because it meant something different to the Boers than it did to the Zulu. Which I guess, if you think about it, is like telling the turkey you’re having him for dinner. It all depends on your perspective. Gravy anyone?

Here you go. Anyway, as I was saying. There are plenty that were upset by Malema’s vocalizations, including Johannesburg Judge Leon Halgryn of the High Court, whose own interpretation went like this: “the publication and chanting of the words ‘dubula ibhunu,’ prima facie satisfies the crime of incitement to murder.”

But the judge sitting the case, Collin Lamont, didn’t buy the other judge’s ruling, saying, “I think I should ignore it.” In closing arguments, he acknowledged that the translation of the song lyrics “dubula ibhunu” as “shoot the Boer” was what was upsetting people, but it might translate differently for the audience listening to it. “It is common cause that [shoot the Boer] could be the translation, but we can’t say it is the proper translation,” he observed, Solomon-like. The judge noted that words sung in a particular language might have a certain meaning to one audience and another to a different audience.

Here’s an unscientific poll I found online.

What do you think of the song “Shoot the Boer” as sung by Malema?

  • Dangerous and likely to incite some people 32.35%
  • South Africa is a democracy and there is no need for those songs 17.65%
  • It amounts to hate speech 27.88%
  • Struggle songs help people to remember the spirit of resistance that led to South Africa’s transition to democracy 17.65%
  • I’m not sure 4.47%
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