Johannesburg - Businessman Kenny Kunene on Friday tweeted a series of images comparing white people to monkeys. He started off by saying that "whites compare blacks to monkeys all the time. Let's see similarities between white people and monkeys in the next five tweet pics."
The messages have garnered mixed reaction, and although Kenny has since deleted the tweets, they have gone viral.
In a candid interview with The Juice editor, Jessica Levitt, Kenny explains why he made the decision to lash out and make his voice known.
Kenny, to verify: Was it you that posted those images comparing white people to monkeys?
Kenny: You know, there's a lot of things that I feel white people are doing wrong in this country. If you remember, I have been on record saying I was made by white people. When I came out of prison the first job that I got was from a white woman. And every other business opportunity that we got with Gayton (McKenzie) was through the goodness of non-racist white South Africans.
Russell Simmons once said: "If you are in the public space and you don't take part in public discussions and stand for the truth, then you don't deserve to be there." It is not the first time that black people have been called monkeys in this country. Penny is not the first one. We are being degraded. The silence of so-called non-racist white people has become too loud. Yesterday another estate agent posted a picture of Jacob Zuma and a gorilla. It is not just Jacob Zuma that she is talking about - it is every black person. I Googled all these pictures. I wanted to see what is it that white people see in us that makes us monkeys... that doesn't make them monkeys.
And after I did my search there's even pictures of white people being compared to monkeys and gorillas. I am not doing it out of racism. I am doing it out of anger - like many other South Africans who are angry. The plan here of racists is to install in the minds of young black South Africans that they are inferior. They are at the level of monkeys. They must always feel inferior. I cannot stand back and watch these white racists insult a nation.
So does your anger justify you then doing exactly the same as what you are calling racist?
Kenny: Desperate times require desperate measures. I am very angry. I am very very very angry, like many other young South Africans who are out there. And let me tell you, Jess what these young people are saying. I interact with young people on a daily basis...
So what I am doing here is if you understand the anger of our people, you'd understand that it actually helps ordinary white South African's who are not racist
Do you think your actions are spurring on this anger then?
Kenny: No, no. I'm not spreading anger. I am saying to white South Africans "stop calling us monkeys because you also look like monkeys".
What are you saying to black South Africans with messages like this?
Kenny: As much as we are angry, let us not be reduced to monkeys. Here is evidence that whites also have the same looks, the same skin types. Don't be reduced to inferiority.
You do realise that with these messages, you are going to be called a racist. What is your response to that?
Kenny: (Laughs.) I don't think that I must justify to anyone whether I am a racist or not. I am responding to racism. And at this time, as an angry South African, I am responding in the best way I deem possible.
And the question that you are responding to racism with racism?
Kenny: That's an opinion. I don't see any racism there with what I have posted. My first tweet said: "White people compare us to monkeys all the time. Let's see some similarities between white people and gorillas." My tweet is not aimed at calling people anything. Unfortunately there are 140 letters.
But is that message clear? Twitter does only have 140 characters and as people see it, you are comparing white people to monkeys.
Kenny: Number one: I don't accept that I look like a monkey. My last tweet in Sotho translated means: "When you attack me you must first look at yourself."
Is that clear to people that don't understand the language?
Kenny: I have learnt English, they must learn my language. It was deliberate that I did it in Sotho. We have 12 official languages in South Africa. Those who want to know what you mean, they will ask. My message is simple: don't accept to be called a monkey. Those people must first look at themselves. I am the last person to fuel anything. Racist whites must bear the consequences of their actions.
You don't say racist whites, though. You say whites.
Kenny: I am responding so they can look at it from our eyes.
So just for today you are acting as a racist so the messages can come across?
Kenny: Yes, I am generalising. My message is simple: I am saying to white people, to racist white people, to white people in general. If a black guy says something racist, I will call him to order. But I don't see that happening. But I don't see that happening with white people when they call us names. They keep their jobs. It's like nothing has happened.
Do not call me a name before looking at yourself. Black people, if they don't speak they burn. When we decide to come for Sandton, you stay there, what are you doing about it? I am generalising so that white people can understand. You guys have to speak up. Now is the time.