Bono Causes Controversy In South Africa

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February 14, 2011 | 7:35am EST

U2 frontman Bono has sparked anger in South Africa after allegedly speaking out in favor of an anti-apartheid song which is said to promote violence against the country’s white community.
The Irish rockers have taken their 360 tour to South Africa, but the shows have been mired in controversy after Bono gave an interview in which he allegedly commented on a song containing the lyric “Shoot the Boer” – a term which translates as “farmer” and originally referred to Dutch settlers, but is now considered a derogatory term for white citizens.

Bono is said to have compared the song to tunes which were sung in Ireland relating to the IRA, telling the South African Sunday Times, “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 also admitted one of the songs he enjoyed as a child contained lyrics about carrying guns, adding, “We sang this and it’s fair to say it’s folk music… as this was the struggle of some people that sang it over some time.”

But Bono insisted such controversial songs need to be placed in context: “Would you want to sing that in a certain community? It’s pretty dumb. It’s about where and when you sing those songs. There’s a rule for that kind of music.”

The South African song Bono is said to refer to has been at the center of a political storm in the country – the controversial leader of the African National Congress’ youth league, Julius Malema, is currently locked in a legal battle with white lobby group AfriForum over whether the track should be banned.

Willie Spies, the legal representative for AfriForum, says, “We think Bono is perhaps not fully informed about what the position is. I guess he doesn’t know about the polarisation it caused last year. It’s good practise for any visitor not to pass comment on the affairs of a foreign country in their first week there. Bono comes from Dublin where the situation is very different: people are not on the streets fearing for their lives every day. If he had taken cognisance of the fact that life is different in South Africa, he might not have said it.”