U2's Bono criticised for endorsing Shoot the Boer song

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The Irish pop star Bono has been criticised for apparently endorsing a song which includes the lyric: "Shoot the Boer".

BBC News Africa

The U2 frontman said the song, which was sung during the fight against apartheid, had its place, like music supporting the Irish Republican Army.

His comments came at the start of U2's tour of South Africa.

But callers to local radio stations said the song was designed to stir up racial hatred.

"That's hate speech. They don't know our history at all," said one caller to a South African radio talk show.

The song has been at the centre of a political storm in South Africa, with the controversial leader of the African National Congress's youth league, Julius Malema, locked in a legal battle with a white lobby group over whether it should be banned as hate speech.

Sometimes used as a derogatory term for white people, Boer is an Afrikaans word for farmer.

'Folk music'

In an interview with the South African Sunday Times, Bono said: "When I was a kid and I'd sing songs I remember my uncles singing... rebel songs about the early days of the Irish Republican Army."

He went on to sing a song whose lyrics spoke of carrying guns and readying them for action.

"We sang this and it's fair to say it's folk music," he told the newspaper.

But he said such songs should not be sung in the wrong context.

"Would you want to sing that in a certain community? It's pretty dumb," he said.

"It's about where and when you sing those songs. There's a rule for that kind of music."

Callers to local radio stations described the song as an example of hate speech.

South Africa's highest court is currently considering whether the song violates the rights of Afrikaners.

Since apartheid was banned in 1994, more than 3,000 white farmers have been murdered.

A committee of inquiry in 2003 found that only 2% of farm attacks had a political or racial motive, although critics said this figure was far too low.

It was into this political minefield that Bono has wandered, says BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut, apparently unaware of the depth of feeling his remarks would stir up.

BBC News website readers from around the world have been sharing their thoughts on Bono's remarks:

I think Bono is right when he says about when and why and what context the song was written. It is very ignorant to say that it was made intentionally with hate in mind considering the history and background of U2. It is mentioned above that Bono and U2 do not know about South Africa history but I don't think the people that complain know where U2 come from either. David E, Salt Lake City, Utah, US

Bono instead of talking rubbish check your facts - I ashamed of you as an Irishman. I, along with thousands of true fans who started a call to bring you to Durban, will never support you or any of your music again. A bad move on your part. Avril Kotze, Durban, South Africa

This is the same as endorsing any other derogatory racist name that has been used in the past. Is this what U2 support, just because it is historical? What other racist names do they endorse and support? Is this a publicity stunt? If so, it is in its lowest form. Colin Money, Basingstoke, UK

We've heard quite enough from pretentious pop stars and this dangerous indiscretion illustrates how pathetically clueless these people are. Jack Gunter, La Manga, Spain

If his endorsement of this song leads to one more farmer's death, it would have undone all the good he has done over the years. Bono, you should come and live in the real South Africa, and not in your ivory towers and learn what life is like for ordinary South Africans, before you make comments like that. Shame on you Bono. Steve Newby, Cape Town, South Africa

It's fair to say Bono has stepped into a mess here and would have been better served by hiring some PR people who should have told him what to steer clear of during their tour in South Africa. Although Bono likes to think of himself as liberal-minded and politically conscious, he will make no friends and quite a few enemies trying to court favour with certain sections of the community. South African politics and society are still pretty polarised and it's fair to say in-depth reporting on issues does not often make its way to Europe. Simon O, Napier, South Africa

He is known for his self-righteous help to Africa which has often done more harm than good. He is talking about something of which he knows nothing at all, which is not at all unusual for him. It is amazing how drugs, sex and rock and roll make you a guru worth listening to. Jan du Plessis, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

This is a sheer idiocy on the part of a man who should know better. His attitude in the context of the difficulties faced by the Irish displays a sorry intellect. Ian King, Pretoria, South Africa

Really fed up with those singers who think of themselves as politicians. First, it's a depravation of music, second they don't know a thing about the situations they sing about. Chris, Paris, France


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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on February 13, 2011 12:34 AM.

Black technical staff to protest at U2 concert was the previous entry in this blog.

On Tour in South Africa, Bono Defends Anti-Apartheid Song With Controversial Lyrics is the next entry in this blog.

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