World, Africa

South African courts taking tough stance on racism

Woman sentenced to 3 years in prison, with 1 year suspended, for racially abusing black police officers

28.03.2018
South African courts taking tough stance on racism

JOHANNESBURG

The courts in South Africa are becoming tough on people accused of committing racist acts in the country which emerged from decades of racial segregation known as apartheid in 1994.

On Wednesday a magistrate’s court in Johannesburg sentenced a former estate agent to three years imprisonment, with one year suspended, for racially abusing black police officers.

In a video circulated on social media in 2016, Vicky Momberg, 49, was caught racially insulting black police officers who had come to her rescue after criminals smashed her car window.

Instead of cooperating with the officers she insulted them with derogatory words. Momberg is seen in the video complaining about black people.

Magistrate Pravina Rugoonandan said the Momberg had been found guilty of four counts of crimen injuria, which refers to injuring ones dignity through racial insults.

Rugoonandan said the sentence should serve as a warning to others.

However, Andre Duvenhage, a political science Professor at South Africa’s North-West University, said he feels there is inconsistency in the courts when it comes to convicting black racists.

“We have people like Julius Malema (Economic Freedom Fighters party) leader who calls for killing of white farmers but he is not sentenced for that,” he told Anadolu Agency via telephone.

He claimed the courts were tough on whites who transgress on racism but black racists were treated leniently. “There should be consistency on how court handles this issue,” Duvenhage added.

Increasing incidents

Racist actions and utterances are becoming common in South Africa two decades after the end of white minority rule.

Last year, a court sentenced two white farmers to 11 and 14 years in jail respectively, for attempting to force a black man into a coffin. Their actions were reportedly seen to have racial connotations.

Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson had forced Victor Mlotshwa, 27, into a coffin and threatened to set it on fire after he trespassed on their land in the northeastern Mpumalanga province.

The duo were convicted of attempted murder, kidnapping, intimidation and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The farmers denied the charges, saying they had only intended to frighten their victims.

The video footage of the incident posted online caused nationwide outrage bringing back bitter memories of the apartheid system, in which black South Africans were oppressed for decades because of their race.

In January 2016, Penny Sparrow, a former estate agent of the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, compared black South Africans to monkeys in a Facebook post.

Sparrow made the remarks accusing blacks of allegedly littering a Durban beach on New Year’s Day.

Durban businessman Justin Van Vuuren also followed Sparrow’s footsteps weeks later describing blacks as animals in a Facebook post.

Their comments generated condemnations across the country. Sparrow was later fined 150,000 rand ($12,837).

A week later, a black government employee Velaphi Khumalo was suspended after posting on Facebook that black South Africans should do what “Hitler did to the Jews” and cleanse the country of white people.

Former President Jacob Zuma at the time said the racist comments made it clear that there were people who still yearned for the past regime of apartheid.

“The struggle against apartheid was a struggle against racism, which is the notion that one group of people is better than others, and is superior to others simply because of their skin color,” he said.

Reporting by Hassan Isilow; Writing by Hassan Isilow

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