Twenty-two years into what is known as the new democratic dispensation in South Africa and the beloved “rainbow nation” seems to have collapsed. 2016 saw quite a number of what could be described as hate speech (racism to be precise) by certain citizens on social media. As it is known, all over the world, racism is a crime against humanity and is heavily condemned.
Simplistically, racism is known as the belief that members of a certain race possess characteristics, abilities or qualities that distinguish them as superior or inferior to other races. Furthermore racism is antagonism, prejudice, discrimination directed against someone by another based on the colour of their skin. However on an interview on eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) on 11 January, former MP of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Andile Mngxitama explained the meaning of racism in the South African context quite differently. According to Mngxitama racism is the systematic exclusion of a certain race (in this case, Black people) from achieving success and accessing certain spaces for the purposes of mobility.
Even after our so-called “freedom”, this institutional form of racism is still potent and rife in South Africa and this is evident in the socio-economic conditions of millions of black South Africans compared to their white counter-parts. It is no doubt that the freedom and prosperity that black South Africans were promised post- 1994 was somewhat a myth. This is not to say that the democratic government under the rule of the African National Congress has not done anything to salvage the evil-doings of the apartheid regime; however it is evident that 22 years is not enough time for full recovery – SA has a long way to go.
The race issue was sparked by a white estate agent, Penny Sparrow. Sparrow took to social media to express after New Years’ Day how disgusted she was by the overpopulation of Durban beaches by “monkeys” (referring to black people). Sparrow further insulted black people on an interview with News24 by justifying her hate speech by saying,
“I made the mistake of comparing them (black people) with monkeys. Monkeys are cute and they’re naughty, but they (black people) don’t see it that way, but I do because I love animals,” Sparrow explained.
Sparrow was not the only one who seemed to reminisce about the old apartheid days. Standard Bank economist, Chris Hart also spewed some offensive words to black people on Twitter on 3 January:
“More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities...”
Since the tweet, social media was in rage and Standard bank immediately distanced itself from Hart’s comments and he was subsequently suspended pending an inquiry of his comment. The bank further explained that it expects all its colleagues in every country at all times to reflect the values of Standard Bank Group.
A couple of days later, Gym owner based in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Justine Van Vuuren also took to Twitter to express that black people need to go back to where they come from and take their 13 kids with them.
“Also, teach them to look left and right before crossing the promenade! They seem to have no depth perception either! I recommend we make our promenade private! It shouldn’t be enjoyed by the scum of the nation!” Van Vuuren exclaimed.
As a result of this hatred and offense, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has noted these issues with “serious concern.” The SAHRC spokesperson, Isaac Mangena stated that the Commission has launched an investigation into the comments which may lead to further legal steps. Mangena furthermore stated that the Commission recognises that the comments do not represent the views of majority of the South African population.
The ruling party, the ANC has since in response claimed to lay charges of crimen injuria against racist South Africans at the Hillbrow Police Station as well as lay formal complaints with the SAHRC. The President, Jacob Zuma however had quite a differing opinion to the rage. According to the President, South Africa is not racist, because it was defeated after democracy was achieved in 1994.