The South African Human Rights Commission is concerned about the increase in racist posts on social networking sites such as Faceook and Twitter.
A social media law consultant, Emma Sadleir, has also warned that a racist tweeter or facebooker could be charged with crimen injuria or hate speech.
She was reacting to a string of racist posts made this week on Twitter by a former member of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s SRC.
Sfiso “Mabhiza” Mbatha, whose Twitter handle is @Cadre_General, sparked a furore on the site after he posted a message on Sunday that read: “#WhiteGenocide Would rape every 13yr old white girl after Mandela finally kick that bucket. Just for control”. Shortly after he wrote: “We gonna kill every white cockcroach that breath(es) SA’s air”.
SAHRC spokesman, Isaac Mangena, said no complaint had been received about Mbatha.
He said they had noted with concern the increase in such comment posts on social media sites and condemned it.
Mangena cited previous incidents of racism and intolerance such as Jessica Leandra Dos Santos’s offensive tweet last year which caused an outrage. The former FHM model tweeted “@JessicaLeandra: Just, well took on arrogant and disrespectful k***** inside Spar. Should have punched him, should have.”
He said such situations were dealt with to decrease intolerance in our communities.
Mangena said such behaviour should be a concern to everyone, not just the SAHRC, to guarantee that everyone lives in a harmonious society.
Mbatha’s posting drew a torrent of angry responses from across the country on Twitter and Facebook, which Mbatha replied to. Many of the exchanges included racist and obscene language.
Some said they would pray for Mbatha while others threatened his life.
Professor Pearl Sithole, of the faculty of community development at UKZN, yesterday said she was shocked to learn of the posts and questioned why they had not been reported to the police.
“This is beyond hate speech, it is a threat to people and to young girls in a country that is still struggling in terms of dealing with emotional and physical abuse of women,” said Sithole.
Reacting to the frenzy, an apologetic Mbatha on Tuesday said he meant no harm with his Twitter posts. “It was just a joke at the end of the day. But now I realise that they were uncalled for, they went overboard and pushed the limit. I did say that I was joking, but people responded by insulting me, so I insulted them back,” said Mbatha.
The former UKZN student representative council member said he was unaware his comments would ruffle feathers.
“It’s Twitter, it’s nothing personal, it’s just that people catch feelings. I think people need to learn that the moment you register on Twitter, you can tease people and they will tease you. I don’t have a problem with white people at all. I have white friends whom I love and they love me.”
Despite the apparent regret, Sithole maintained that Mbatha’s posts were immoral and has called for government to take action. “Mbatha is a pinnacle of moral disgrace, given that such statements are taking place while a Struggle icon of Mandela’s stature is fighting for his life,” she said.
Sadleir warned that Mbatha’s actions could have dire consequences.
“There are limits to the right to online freedom of expression – for example defamation, invasion of privacy, contempt of court, hate speech, intellectual property, harassment, etc. Comments posted on Facebook or Twitter are treated in exactly the same way as comments made in any other public forum, be it on television or radio, in a newspaper or in public discourse,” Sadleir said.
Sadleir said people posted things on social networks that they would be afraid to say in the real world, forgetting that they risked dismissal at work and criminal prosecution.
“The CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) has held all these dismissals to be fair. In the South African context, a racist Tweeter or Facebooker could be charged with crimen injuria or hate speech.
“The other option is to lay a complaint at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) under the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000, also known as the Equality Act,” Sadleir said. – Daily News