Red card for racists
LEGAL experts have described the landmark Vicki Momberg judgment and sentence as one that will determine how the judiciary deals with prejudice related matters in future.
Yesterday the former real estate agent, who called police officers “kaffir” 48 times in 2016, was handed a threeyear prison sentence, one of which was suspended, in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court.
Momberg is the first ever person in South Africa to serve a jail term for using a derogatory and racist word.
She used the word to insult a group of police officers who were assisting her after she was the victim of a smash and grab incident in Randburg in 2016.
Law experts said the judgment delivered by magistrate Pravina Raghunandan late last year and the sentencing imposed yesterday would be used as a reference in many cases to come be it homophobia, xenophobia or any other hate crimes.
This comes only three weeks after the Cabinet approved the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crime and Hate Speech Bill and sent it to Parliament for processing.
The bill provides for the offence of hate crimes and the offence of hate speech and the prosecution of persons who commit such crimes. It also provides for appropriate sentences to be imposed on persons who commit hate crime and hate speech offences.
KP Seabi & Associates senior attorney, Kabelo Seabi said the Constitution was clear in granting everybody the right to dignity and provides for that dignity to be protected.
“It is to be welcomed that in this instance the court has taken a brave step making sure that right is not lessened. Hopefully other courts will follow that outcome as a guiding precedent when they deal with these types of cases in the future,” Seabi said.
The South African Human Rights Commission has also welcomed the sentence, saying it reinforces the judgment handed down in the SAHRC’s matter in the Civil Court.
“After being found guilty of hate speech, Momberg failed to comply with the Equality Court order and the SAHRC is pursuing a contempt of court order against Momberg,” the SAHRC’s Gail Smith said.
In the past, many cases taken to the Equality Court have ended with a public apology and fines being imposed.
In 2008, four University of Free State students, Roelof Malherbe, Schalk van der Merwe, Johnny Roberts and Danie Grobler forced elderly black university staff to eat meat that had been urinated on. The staff members were also forced to kneel and drink beer while the students gave instructions. The matter was taken to the Equality Court.
The four students were expelled from the institution. In 2016, former South Coast estate agent Penny Sparrow was fined R150000 for referring to black beachgoers as monkeys.
Later that year, Matthew Theunissen from Cape Town was ordered to perform community service for sports development in a disadvantaged part of Cape Town as part of a settlement agreement after he used the K-word on Facebook.
Some similar cases that have made headlines include that of former South Gauteng High Court judge Mabel Jansen who wrote on social media that rape was part of black culture. Jansen resigned from the bench and is is yet to face the Judicial Tribunal.
Last year Velaphi Khumalo was taken to court by the SAHRC after he posted on Facebook saying black South Africans must do to whites what “Hitler did to the Jews”.
Andre Slade, a guest house owner in Sodwana Bay, KZN, was fined R50 000 by the Equality Court for hate speech after he refused to accommodate black people at his guest house and said they were created to be servants.
However, in the case of two Mpumalanga men who forced Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin, although their acts were proven to be racially motivated, the two men were convicted of assault and sentenced to 11 and 15 years in prison.
Reading out sentence yesterday, Raghunandan described Momberg as having been out of control.
“There is a chasm between remorse and regret. Whether the offender is remorseful or simply feeling sorry for him or herself are two different things. For remorse to be a valid consideration, the penance must be sincere.
“The accused did not appear to be remorseful and to take responsibility for her actions. The accused was out of control,” Raghunandan said.
During aggravation of sentence, a probation officer’s report stated that Momberg, despite having been found guilty in the Equality Court and ordered to pay R100 000 before being criminally prosecuted, still did not believe she had done something wrong. She will remain in jail until her application for leave to appeal is heard on Wednesday.
The NPA has welcomed the sentencing with spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane saying it had set a precedent for other race-related cases.
THE DUTY TO ERADICATE RACISM AND ITS TENDENCIES HAS BECOME ALL THE MORE APPARENT, ESSENTIAL AND URGENT NOW. FOR THIS REASON, NOTHING THAT THREATENS TO TAKE US BACK TO OUR RACIST PAST SHOULD BE GLOSSED OVER.” – Magistrate Pravina Raghunandan’s remarks during the landmark sentencing of Vicki Momberg
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PRISONER OF HATE: Vicki Momberg paid a heavy price for her racist rants when she became the first person in SA to be sentenced to an effective prison term in the Randburg Magistrate’s court yesterday.
STRIPPED OF DIGNITY: White students at the University of the Free State forced black female workers to drink urine.
Andre Slade and his partner Katherine
Alpheus Mohale This is a good development because it sets the tone for the eradication of racism in the country. We can’t say South Africa is democratic if we have people who treat themselves above others. It says places like Orania should not exist in this country and I’m happy racists will think twice going forward.”
Maseephephe Mahao The sentence is not enough, she could have been given at least a minimum of five years imprisonment as it would serve as an example to other people. However, it’s a good start to deal with racist culprits.”
Bossie Bosset I would like to see all, including Malema on the stand. Double standards are applied. I am not condoning her actions but there should be consistency in the law and society. Many social media trollers are also guilty of openly defying the Constitution regarding mutual respect, hate speech and racism in the name of freedom of speech.”
Sasha Logarsperan I do think that the sentence is a little too harsh but am glad that the government is finally taking racism seriously. Vicki getting jail time will show other racists out there that it’s not acceptable. There is already racial tension in South Africa without people fuelling it with their hateful words.”
Smangele Ngubo A lesson needed to be learnt and unfortunately she was the subject. Every day in South Africa you hear of yet another racist incident on social media. People hide behind their computer thinking they can say what they want to others. We were promised a rainbow nation but this country is still far from that.”
Nathi Luthuli The norm of calling people the K-word and just paying is over. A legal precedent has been set and that one will from now be jailed and have a criminal record. Our forefathers spent decades on Robben Island, were tortured and murdered by her brethren for merely asking to be treated like human beings.”
Ofentse Molefe The woman deserves the two years punishment and I’m happy that our courts are showing that we may be different in the colour of our skin but no one is above the other in this country. We are all equal and this verdict is highly welcomed.”
Onalenna Moleko It is sad but it must be a learning curve for everyone in the country that we must treat each other equally. No one must be superior to the next person. Even black people – the same sentence must apply to them when they have done wrong.”
Gloria Masango Well I think it is unfair for such a sentence. They should have ordered her to clean some creches or old age home. Racism we know is alive and kicking, but sentencing people will not resolve the matter, all races must start working together.”
Kgotso Seokame This judgment sends a good message to white racists that there is no room for discrimination against black people any more. She should have been sent to jail for the full three years though.”
Robert Timms Three years in prison? For me a sentence is when she does community service in a community with people from all ethnic backgrounds. That would have achieved far better results.”
Matshediso Mantjie Let the racists go to jail, we do not want to experience that in our life time since we are born frees, the country needs to experience a rainbow nation not racism.”