Johannesburg - Lobby group AfriForum believes South Africans have double standards when it comes to the way they react to racist and hateful comments on social media.
The group’s deputy CEO, Ernst Roets, said this was clear and evident in the manner in which people responded to racism against black people versus racism against white people.
He was addressing the SA Human Rights Commission’s hearing on racism and hate speech on social media, on its final day in Johannesburg on Thursday.
"During the past two days, we heard the name Penny Sparrow a lot. She was an unknown estate agent from KwaZulu-Natal who referred to black people who litter on the Durban beachfront as monkeys.
"In contrast, Velaphi Khumalo, an employee of the provincial department of sport and recreation, wrote in response to Sparrow’s post that he wanted to cleanse the country of whites, and that whites should be treated in the same way that Hitler treated the Jews.
"In a second post, he said that white people in South Africa deserve to be butchered like Jews.
"So, what are the differences between Penny Sparrow and Velaphi Khumalo? Sparrow offended black people and she did so in a very grotesque manner, but what Khumalo did was call for a butchering and genocide of white people," he said.
Roets said Sparrow was fined R150 000, while Khumalo, as far as he knew, had only been subjected to an internal investigation.
He said something similar had happened to economist Chris Hart and former Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulama Xingwana.
'False racist attack'
In March 2016, Hart came under fire after he tweeted: "More than 25 years after apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities."
Roets said Hart was "instantly converted to another example of the evil that is white racism" after posting the tweet.
"But on the other hand, Lulu Xingwana - minister of women, children and people with disabilities - went on international television, making the most atrocious statement imaginable.
"Young Afrikaner men, she said, are brought up in the Calvinist religion, believing that they own the woman, they own the child, they own everything and, therefore, they can take that life because they own it."
Xingwana had made the comments to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in February 2013 when she was interviewed on the arrest and murder charge against Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, after he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Roets said he had found Xingwana’s statement extremely offensive.
"What the minister did was to go on international television and insult the very core of my identity as a young Afrikaner."
Roets said the difference between the two individuals’ utterances was that one was based on research and the other was a racist attack on a particular community.
"Hart makes an economic observation based on his research, suggesting that many black South Africans have an entitlement mentality.
"What Xingwana did was to make a false racist attack right to the very core of what a particular minority and community holds dear," he said.
He said, although both parties had apologised, Hart had lost his job, while Xingwana had been "sheltered" by the Cabinet.
Government’s failure to act against Xingwana’s utterances had contributed to the general mistrust that AfriForum members had with government.
"Imagine for a moment if a white person went on international television and made a statement more or less along the following lines of 'the problem with black people is that they are brought up in a culture into which they become lazy and violent believing that they can steal whatever they want because the world owes them everything'.
"This is extremely deplorable and I am convinced that millions of South Africans would never forgive and never trust the white person who said this, despite their apology.
"If this is the case, why should white people trust a Cabinet which shelters people who make statements like this?"
When asked whether he felt the country’s Constitution was not accommodating enough for all racial groups to defend their rights, as well as to take action when they felt their freedoms were under threat, Roets said certain clauses of the Constitution were not always applied in reality.
"This is an open society in theory. I don’t think our society is as open as the Constitutional text suggests."
Members of the media also contributed to these double standards, he added.
"The reality is that violent crimes in which white people and black people are the offenders are not condemned with the same enthusiasm as cases where black people are the victims and white people are the offenders."