Discriminating Justice

It is remarkable how a deafening silence has descended over the difference between the R60,000 fine imposed on Edward Zuma for hate speech and the R150,000 fine imposed on Penny Sparrow for an offence, which, by comparison, was not in the same league as Zuma’s.

For referring to black people on social media as “monkeys,” Sparrow was the subject of withering press criticism. On social media, she was the target of hate mail and relentless vilification. She lost her realtor job and as a seventy-something grandmother, she is now destitute.

The key difference between Sparrow’s and Zuma’s racial comments is that hers were extemporaneous rants on social media. But Zuma’s took the form of an open letter which comprised pre-meditated, historically contextualised, anti-Indian and anti-white statements.

By referring to Minister Pravin Gordhan as a “corrupt cadre who thinks African natives are no better than being sugar cane cutters” and who regards” black Africans as “low caste k*****s who are sub-human,” Zuma clearly harbours a deep, residual hatred of Indians, despite their role in the ANC’s “struggle.”

Zuma’s antipathy for Indians in that open letter was directed just as bitterly against whites. Despite the “struggle” credentials of his fellow ANC comrade, Derek Hanekom, Zuma castigated him as part of a “racist, paternalistic minority” and “an enemy of the people” (Mercury, 23 May).

From those excerpts alone, one does not need to be a psychoanalyst to recognise that Edward Zuma has not come to terms with the preamble of our constitution which exhorts South Africans to be “united in our diversity” and the founding provision which stipulates respect for human dignity and non-racialism.

Yet despite the extremely racist nature of his written thoughts, Zuma has not been required to undergo counselling. Instead, he has been commended for eventually accepting his party’s plea to issue an apology to Gordhan and Hanekom. Moreover, he added insult to injury, by excusing himself from the court convened to rule on his race hate conviction on the basis that “he had other commitments to attend to.”

If Zuma had a sense of remorse and a desire to show that he appreciates the gravity of his offence, he would have prioritised his court appearance ahead of his “other commitments.” But by failing to be present in court and to personally accept the court’s ruling, Zuma has invited speculation as to the extent of his repentance.

For far less, and in an emotional state having suffered a smash and grab experience, Vicky Momberg was sentenced to two years in prison. The outcome of the Edward Zuma hate-speech case is a clear illustration that all are not equal before the law.

Sent into The Mercury and published, 26 May 2018.

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