Don’t be racist: Learn from these social media epic fails

The saying “you don’t kick a gift horse in the mouth” rings true when it comes to some of the racist rants that circulate on social media. Facebook, Twitter and the many platforms that were designed to connect people and encourage interaction have also become mouthpieces for hate speech.

Last year, Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced that a proposed bill to combat hate crimes and hate speech had been opened for public debate and consultation.

The Bill was first drafted to only make provision for hate crimes but was later amended after several instances of hate speech via social media which caused an outcry among South Africans.

The Bill has been a point of contention as it could not only be used  as a weapon to silence the masses from sharing their opinions on government and compromised the right to free speech. The first deadline for public closed in January this year.

In the past year, South Africa has had its fair share of people who have misused social media platforms to spread hate speech which has led to their social and in some cases, professional suicide.

Here are some of the cases you can learn from:

Who can ever forget Penny Sparrow’s Famous Facebook post:

Real Estate agent Penny Sparrow from KwaZulu-Natal didn’t know just how destructive her viral racist rant on Facebook would be when she posted this in January 2016:

It didn’t take long until the post began making the rounds on social media prompting an onslaught of death threats, media reports and angry responses. She eventually had to shut down her profile and go into hiding. She appeared at the Umzinto Magistrates’ Court in September 2016 and was found guilty of hate speech in the Equality Court and ordered to pay R150 000 to the Adelaide and Oliver Tambo Foundation.

Justin Van Vuuren jumped on the racist rant bandwagon:

In the same month entrepreneur Justin van Vuuren, owner of a mobile gym business in Durban called FATTRUCKSA added his two cents to Penny Sparrow’s rant.

Social media was ablaze and he too became a trending topic. FutureLife announced that it had decided to ‘disassociate’ itself from the business and condemned van Vuuren’s utterances.

He later apologised:


Chris Hart also tore a page off Penny Sparrow’s book

In the same month as Penny Sparrow’s rant Standard Bank economist Christ Hart tweeted:

Standard Bank immediately distanced itself from his tweet, stating that the bank did not endorse the comments made:

Hart later apologised and said that his tweet was taken out of context.

Standard Bank announced the suspension of Hart pending an inquiry on 4 January 2016 following his “racist” tweet. Hart later resigned.


Velaphi Khumalo joined in on the racist rhetoric

Gauteng sports, arts, culture and recreation department employee Velaphi Khumalo posted a racist status update on his Facebook page within the same month of January. The post read:

Khumalo reportedly also said white people should be “hacked and killed like Jews” in another post:

The department distanced itself from his comments. MEC Faith Mazibuko said at the time: “The department of sport, arts, culture and recreation views the hateful post by Velaphi Khumalo in a serious light,” said.

Khumalo was suspended and faced an internal disciplinary hearing where he pleaded guilty and committed to avail himself for corrective measures which include counselling. The Disciplinary Panel deemed it fit to issue him with a Final Written Warning.

A case of crimen injuria was opened against him, and 19 complaints were lodged at the South African Human Rights Commission.


Liam Christian Ferreira kicks of 2017 with more racism

2017 was off to a rocky start after he posted an Islamophobic rant on the Langebaan Facebook Page on New Year’s Day.

He received a lot of backlash for the comment and issued a formal apology. The Muslim Judicial Council president, Shaykh Irafaan Abrahams, said Ferreira had described his “incitement of violence as a grave misjudgement” and “a metaphor poorly executed”.

Mark Scott-Crossley, Pieter Hattingh, Marius Koen and Judge Mabel Jansen are a few of many names that have landed in hot water for their racist rants on social media between 2016 and 2017.

The volume of racists social media posts have prompted companies to change their policies around the disciplinary measures against people who promote hate speech on social media.

Visit Anti-Racism Network of South Africa for more information on Anti-Racism Week and how to get involved. To report any violations of human rights, visit the SA Human Rights Commission.

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