The charges centre on a Zulu-language song that dates from the apartheid era. Its chorus, “Dubul’ibhunu”, means literally “shoot the boer” or farmer.
Malema, president of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League, sang the chant at several public rallies. He was taken to the Equality Court by Afrikaner rights group AfriForum, which alleges that the song uses the word boer as “a derogatory word referring to farmers, whites and to Afrikaners in particular”.
Testifying on Wednesday, Malema denied that the song constitutes hate speech.
“This is an old song that was sung by leaders before us and we are just continuing with it,” he told the court.
He maintains that the Zulu word “ibhunu” means simply “oppressor”.
“Our struggle has never been directed at white people,” he said.
Malema accused AfriForum of seeking publicity, and blamed the media for stirring up racial tension.
Hundreds of Malema’s supporters gathered outside the court house to hear his testimony. Carrying slogans such as “Dubula song belongs to South Africans”, they defended the chant as part of the country’s heritage.
In early testimony, the secretary general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, accused some Afrikaners of succumbing to “Malemaphobia”.
The trial is due to conclude on 21 April.