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Loonat speaks out over suspension

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Community activist, Hanif Loonat, has spoken out about his suspension from the City of Cape Town’s Oversight Committee, insisting the suppression of his freedom of speech was not in line with the country’s democracy. The suspension comes as a result of statements made via his personal Facebook page a few months ago relating to the Gaza conflict. A complaint was subsequently lodged by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), and is set to be addressed by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

He has expressed further shock at discovering that the charges leveled against him, are not the first to have been brought forth to the SAHRC. Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, he noted that upon a recent visit to Port Elizabeth, he received an email via the SAHRC informing him that the charges would be the second brought against him this year.

Surprised by the fact that the initial charges had never been brought to his attention, Loonat said he had called the SAHRC to confirm whether there had been some form of mistake.

“They confirmed that it was meant for me, and that there was a letter emailed to me sometime in September or October. I haven’t received that, and they are going to be sending the initial charges again this morning,” he noted.

Loonat will now be tasked with having his attorneys respond to the charges. He noted he was currently in discussions with the Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA), and expressed hope they would come on board and take up the case.

But he also took a swipe at the local Zionist lobby, suggesting they had an array of attorneys on their side assisting their agenda. But he stressed that there would be a united fight back against their ‘onslaught’.

“This is not the type of democracy that we have fought for in South Africa, where people get suppressed and silent on facts,” he said.

Addressing some of the statements made, Loonat insisted they were done in response to comments from so called ‘Zionist sympathizers’. Amongst them was one directed at a response to the mass march held in the city in August, in which a Zionist reportedly vowed to counter it with and even bigger march, to be held simultaneously. Loonat responded by challenging the individual to do so, warning of a severe backlash from the Muslim community.

“That is not a threat but a warning. You know and I know that the amount of Muslims that took part in that march would not have allowed a Zionist march parallel to that one. There would have been violence. I gave a warning, it is not a threat,” he insisted.

He was hopeful the complaints would be used as a test case, to determine SAHRC dealt with such issues.

“If they are going silence me, obviously then our democracy is going to be in question. And I then I think people will need to be very careful how they use social media,” he added.

Both SAJBD and SAHRC declined to comment. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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