Tuesday, January 05, 2016

South Africa’s Ruling ANC Sues After ‘Monkeys’ Facebook Post Sets Off Storm in Race-troubled Nation
05 JAN 2016 17:55

SOUTH AFRICA’S ruling ANC party on Tuesday launched legal action over a white estate agent’s Facebook comments that compared black beachgoers to monkeys in a growing row about post-apartheid racism.

The African National Congress, which led the struggle against white-minority (apartheid) rule, said it was pursuing a case against Penny Sparrow and a recent spate of other allegedly racist online postings as politicians and organisations piled in.

Sparrow’s comments sparked a storm of protest and renewed debate about racism among white people in the country 22 years since Nelson Mandela came to power vowing national reconciliation.

The ANC said in a statement that it was laying “charges of crimen injuria (intentionally impairing the dignity of others) against a number of South Africans who have made racist remarks on a number of social media.”

Sparrow, a real estate agent from Park Rynie in the southern province of KwaZulu-Natal, complained on Facebook about black people littering beaches during New Year’s celebrations.

“From now I shall address the blacks of South Africa as monkeys as I see the cute little wild monkeys do the same—pick and drop litter,” she said in the posting on Saturday.

The ANC said it would also lodge a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) because such comments “belittled” and “insulted” black South Africans.

“It is troubling that bigots who once kept their views to themselves now seem emboldened,” party spokesman Zizi Kodwa said.

Sparrow later deleted the post and apologised, saying she did not “mean it to be a personal insult to anyone”.

Several other white South Africans have also been subject to fierce criticism over tweets with allegedly racial connotations.

On Monday, Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s biggest lender, said it had suspended prominent economist Chris Hart while he faces disciplinary action for comments he made on Twitter that may have “racist undertones.”

The Johannesburg-based lender said on its website it distanced itself from Hart’s comments on January 3, in which he said the victims of apartheid are “increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities”seen as referring to the treatment of whites.

The statement caused a backlash on Twitter from people calling him a racist and urging Standard Bank clients to boycott the lender. Hart later apologised in a Twitter post, saying that he didn’t intend to cause offense and that his comments were meant to be read in the context of a slowing economy.

Among the plaintiffs according to local South African media were the grandson of struggle stalwart Walter Sisulu and ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa.

Others targeted by the suit included Justin van Vuuren, a gym owner who has since lost key sponsors after posting that black people were ‘animals’ and he was disgusted by their behaviour on a Durban beachfront.

The furore has highlighted racial divisions and sensitivities in South Africa that have not healed since the apartheid era, with the country facing a dire economic outlook as growth slows sharply and mass unemployment persists.

Unions Cosatu and National Union of Mineworkers said racism was tied to economic inequality and the slow pace of transformation.

A survey in December by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation concluded that most South Africans felt “race relations have either stayed the same or deteriorated” since the first democratic elections in 1994.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance party, of which Sparrow is a member, stressed it abhorred racism and laid criminal charges against her for “dehumanising black South Africans”.

The FW de Klerk Foundation said Sparrow’s remarks reinforced “black stereotypes of whites as insensitive and supercilious racists” and called for an apology.

Rights group AfriForum while condemning “all forms of racism” suggested there were double standards as complaints against whites were not subjected to the same level of outrage.

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