By Pinky Khoabane
Penny SparrowChris Hart
The year 2016 will probably go down in South Africa’s democratic history as one which racism reared its head like no other.
From bogus economists to judges and anything in between, white South Africans this year were no longer willing to keep their racism behind closed doors.
But there just seems to be something about beaches open to everyone that so irks some white people that they unleash the most hateful utterances at the sight of black beach revellers.
It’s almost a year since former estate-agent, Democratic Alliance member and now official racist, Penny Sparrow went berserk over Blacks that “invaded” her white beaches.
Unlike last year, she will hopefully have learnt to keep her racist rants to her personal friends. It’s been rough since she went on Facebook in early January bemoaning the “monkeys” that were littering on beaches, which they were barred from during apartheid.
She was found guilty of hate speech in the Equality Court and fined R150 000. She was also found guilty of crimen injuria and fined R5000.
But her fine has meant nothing for racists. Vanessa Hartley, at the beginning of December, said there were too many “Africans flocking to HoutBay” and that they were “behaving like animals.” The ANC in the Western Cape said it would lay a complaint.
Not to be outdone, Ben Sanosof, a young Jewish man, took social media racism to dizzying heights. On seeing an image of Blacks on a beach he posted on Facebook: “Eh eh Wena…must have smelt like the inside of Zuma’s asshole”. He made the remarks on Reconciliation Day no less.
The image of a South Africa that transitioned peacefully from a deeply segregated state to a democratic nation collapsed this year. Tensions flared between blacks and whites in an online race war that highlighted how far the nation still has to go to escape the shadow of its apartheid past.
This outbreak of the 2016 race war was sparked by provocative posts by Sparrow and shortly followed by the bogus “economist” Chris Hart….And the war has been unrelenting.
Hart’s inflammatory tweet was posted on January 3 to his almost 21,000 followers. It read: “More than 25 years after apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities.”
He attempted to calm the Twitterstorm by stating that he had made the remark in the context of a falling economy but the wrath remained unabated. He was later forced to apologise saying he “never meant to cause offence,” but it was too little too late. He resigned as a global investment strategist at Standard Bank following his suspension. His remarks caused a backlash which then turned to his qualifications. Transcripts of his qualifications revealed he did not hold any post-graduate tertiary qualification and yet, he was called an economist. He remains on Twitter and he describes himself these days simply as an “independent financial market strategist”.
There have been many incidents thereafter.
In May, Pretoria High Court Judge Mabel Jansen and in a conversation on Facebook said black men were prone to rape. “In their culture, a woman is there to pleasure them. Period. It is seen as an absolute right and a woman’s consent is not required. I still have to meet a black girl who was not raped at about 12. I am dead serious.” She was on special leave since the incident and appeared in front of the Judicial Conduct Committee in October.
The latest racist, Pieter Hattingh, called Blacks “voken Kaffers”. He has lost his CEO job.
There have been many in between.
Nowhere in recent years have South Africans been more vocal in their hatred for each other than on social media. In January 2015, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a body that polices racism, released findings which showed an increase in cases of online hate speech—from three percent to 22 percent between 2014 and 2015. Kayum Ahmed, SAHRC chief executive officer at the time, attributed the increase to people “letting their guard down more as apartheid becomes a distant memory for many.”
There is yet a racist who is caught that admits they are racist. None see their views as racist. Even calling Blacks kaffirs couldnt make Hattingh admit his racism.
South Africa’s transition to democracy was miraculous in comparison to other nations such as Nigeria, which endured decades of struggle and civil war. After 340 years of brutality in South Africa, the oppressor and the oppressed managed to negotiated a peaceful settlement. Led by the late president Nelson Mandela, South Africans found a way to reconcile and forgive.
But beneath the surface of what seemed like a country increasingly at ease with itself, lay a seething rage which was unleashed on social media in this year.