Hate speech sees ‘Sowetan’ columnist fired

2011-08-02 00:00

A SOWETAN columnist has been sacked and will be sued after describing the editor of a Sunday newspaper a “black snake in the grass, deployed by white capital to sow discord among blacks”.

Eric Miyeni sharply criticised City Press and its editor, Ferial Haffajee, yesterday.

“People like Haffajee … are most likely to be the kind that wakes up in the morning, sees their black faces in the mirror only to feel a wave of self-hatred rising up to nauseate them,” Miyeni wrote in his column, headlined “Haffajee does it for white masters”.

With reference to the necklace murders in the townships during apartheid he wrote, “In the 80s she’d probably have had a burning tyre around her neck.”

On Sunday City Press and its sister newspaper Rapport revealed that three years ago ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema paid R2 million cash for his luxury home in Sandton. According to an actuary quoted by the papers, Malema would have to earn R123 000 a month in order to fund his current lifestyle.

The week before, City Press carried a report on an anonymous businessman who apparently paid R200 000 into Malema’s controversial Ratanang family trust. The trust is allegedly receives bribes from contractors for whom Malema negotiated government tenders.

In his column Miyeni asks whether City Press did not “manufacture these facts” about Malema or otherwise obtain them by illegal means.

He ends by saying, “To hell with Haffajee and her kind”.

Miyeni’s remarks unleashed a storm on the Internet, and especially on Twitter, with many people supporting Haffajee. She announced on Twitter that she intends suing Miyeni.

“I feel attacked and very sad,” she told Beeld yesterday. “He was someone I looked up to.

“It was awful to read the column, it made me cry.”

If she cannot sue Miyeni through her employers, she will do so in her personal capacity, she said.

“When it comes to our journalism I can handle criticism, but this is racist hate speech about me as a person.”

Author Max du Preez said Miyeni’s remarks are “undoubtedly hate speech”.

“It is ghastly of the Sowetan to publish it. I cannot believe that the editor approved it.”

Len Maseko, acting editor of the Sowetan, and Mondli Makhanya, editor-in-chief of Avusa Newspapers, said in a statement that Miyeni crossed the line between healthy debate and condonation of violence.

His column has been cancelled with immediate effect.

Miyeni was a presenter on SAfm radio in 2003, but was dismissed after barely four months. He evoked several complaints from listeners, left his post while on air, and was apparently rude to his colleagues.

Reacting to yesterday’s events, ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu said Miyeni should not be “intimidated, nor demoralised” because he expressed his thoughts openly.

“The ANC Youth League appreciates that ultimately, someone had the courage to tell some journalist where to get off, and we are grateful,” Shivambu said in a statement.

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