'I will strive to be a better citizen' - Penny Sparrow

Durban – Real estate agent Penny Sparrow was fined R5 000 by the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court on Monday after pleading guilty to a charge of crimen injuria.

The fine was the result of a plea bargain agreement. She was sentenced to a further two years’ imprisonment, suspended for five years, for her racist Facebook post in January.

She asked to pay the fine in instalments. She would pay the first R1 000 at court, followed by four instalments of R1 000.

As part of her plea agreement, Sparrow read out an apology that a number of complainants, including the ANC, had approved.

Reading her apology, she became emotional. She said she realised what she did was wrong and asked for forgiveness.

“It is difficult to put into words the regret I feel. I will from now on strive to be a better citizen respecting others, working towards making our country a better place to live in. A place we can be accepting of each other. A place we can all call home.

“I accept that in comparing black people to monkeys in my Facebook post earlier this year I have impaired the dignity of African people. Please accept my heartfelt apology.”

In his closing remarks, Magistrate Vincent Hlatshwayo said that 20 years into democracy, South Africa did not need reminders of its troubled past.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be taken back to the years of suffering.” He felt he was “seeing the truth” in Sparrow’s apology.

“These things are coming from the bottom of your heart. We all make mistakes. It is important to identify the mistake and rectify it.”

Court proceedings were delayed three times on Monday after the State finalised Sparrow’s apology letter.

Senior prosecutor Ranjeni Chowthee said the delays were due to the State having to consult all the complainants.

‘Terrible death threats’

In June, the Umzinto Equality Court ordered Sparrow to pay R150 000 to the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation for her racist Facebook rant. She compared black beachgoers celebrating New Year’s Day in Durban to monkeys. The ANC took her to court.

Once the Equality Court matter was finalised, Sparrow faced the criminal charge of crimen injuria.

In an interview with News24 in June, Sparrow said whites used the term “monkey” as a term of endearment to describe blacks. She said she had to go into hiding.

“There were terrible death threats. People said they were going to bomb my house and people sent pictures of naked women and saying I was going to be raped... it was shocking,” she said.

Several South Africans have landed themselves in hot water for racist comments they made on social networks this year. They include estate agent Vicki Momberg, Capetonian Matthew Theunissen, Standard Bank economist Chris Hart, and Gauteng sports, arts and culture department employee Velaphi Khumalo.

WATCH: Penny Sparrow pleads guilty and reads her apology in court 

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