The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has laid a complaint against three individuals it accuses of anti-Semitic hate speech.
The complaint of crimen injuria was made on Thursday, June 28, and relates to accusations that three individuals – Muhammad Hattia, Tameez Seedat and Matome Letsoalo – made disparaging comments on social media.
"Social media is a very powerful platform and these individuals' tweets had wide reach, with many people commenting," SAJBD chairperson Shaun Zagnoev told News24.
He said that the social media commentary was damaging, in that it specifically called for harm to Jewish people.
"Letsoalo's series of tweets included the statement, '@sajbd The #Holocaust Will be like A Picnic When we are done with all you Zionist Bastards. F*ck All Of You'.
"In another tweet, he described Jews as vermin, who Hitler should have exterminated completely," the SAJBD said in a statement.
Hattia is alleged to have posted: "F*ck you Jew pricks. Fat nosed f*cks…. I hope you and your family die. Hitler f*cked up he should've killed you all."
Social media is notorious for negative commentary, but it rarely results in prosecutions.
The public nature of the postings motivated the SAJBD to tackle the individuals, so as to ensure that it resulted in an increase of sensitivity to hate speech commentary on social media.
"These weren't private postings, because they moved into the public domain and were of a nature that was extremely damaging and harmful," said Zagnoev.
He added that he hoped the criminal charges would send a strong message on hate speech.
"The lesson should be learnt and the individuals need to appreciate that what they've done is damaging. The gravity of the action needs to be understood by the individuals, and society has to condemn the gravity of these comments."
First jail sentence
In March, former real estate agent Vicki Momberg became the first person in South Africa to be jailed for crimen injuria.
She was found guilty after a video of her racist tirade hurled at a police officer went viral.
That followed the case of Penny Sparrow, who was fined R150 000 for her racist social media postings.
Zagnoev said that while social media can be negative, the SAJBD was particularly concerned about hate speech that called for harm to Jews.
The founding provision of SA's Constitution declares South Africa to be a republic, with "non-racialism and non-sexism" as core values. The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of expression, and specifically forbids "hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm".
The SAJBD insisted that it had seriously weighed up the implications before deciding to move forward with the complaint.
"We take these things seriously and we don't approach these things without serious consideration. Politicians should also be condemning this type of statement, the same way they condemn those against racism," said Zagnoev.
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