Penny Sparrow, whose racist post sparked fury, has died

2019-07-25 09:58
Penny Sparrow. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Foto24 )

Penny Sparrow. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Foto24 )

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Penny Sparrow - who rose to infamy after describing black people as "monkeys" in a social media post in 2016 - has died.

"The family of Penny Sparrow wishes to inform the media that Penny succumbed to colon cancer in the early hours of Thursday," a statement from the family said.

"Understandably, the family would like the press to respect their privacy during this trying time and refrain from contact."

Sparrow sparked anger in South Africa after she likened black beachgoers to monkeys in a Facebook post after New Year's Eve in 2016.

Sparrow was found guilty of hate speech in the Equality Court later in 2016 and ordered to pay R150 000 to the Adelaide and Oliver Tambo Foundation.

Racist Facebook post

The KwaZulu-Natal South Coast real estate agent's post would eventually earn her infamy for being the first person to be found guilty of crimen injuria for a racist slur in post-apartheid South Africa.

In her January post following New Year's Day celebrations, she wrote: "These monkeys that are allowed to be released on New Year's eve and New Year's day on to public beaches towns etc obviously have no education what so ever so to allow them loose is inviting huge dirt and troubles and discomfort to others (sic).

"I'm sorry to say that I was amongst the revellers and all I saw were black on black skins what a shame. I do know some wonderful and thoughtful black people. This lot of monkeys just don't want to even try. But think they can voice opinions and get their way of dear," she continued.

"From now on I shall address the blacks of South Africa as monkeys as I see the cute little wild monkeys do the same, pick and drop litter," Sparrow added.

Real estate company distances itself

Just four days after the post, her former employer Jawitz Properties distanced itself from her.

CEO Herschel Jawitz told News24 that, while Sparrow had left the company two months before making the post, her online profile still associated her with their brand.

Jawitz was quick to condemn her.

"The most important fact is that these comments are outrageous in any context, and to be made publicly is unacceptable."

Equality Court

Before any criminal case was levelled against her, Sparrow found herself in the Equality Court within six months of her comments.

The Umzinto Equality Court judgment was served on Sparrow's daughter, Charmaine Cowie on her mother's behalf.

The court ordered Sparrow to pay the amount to the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation, with Magistrate Irfaan Khalil also warning Sparrow against further hate speech.

Her troubles did not end there.

By the end of her Equality Court hearing, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was already considering charging Sparrow.

Criminal court

Within three months of her Equality Court hearing, Sparrow was fined R5 000 by the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court, 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 was asked to pay the fine in instalments. She would pay the first R1 000 in 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.

Top 5 | Penny Sparrow speaks on monkeys, the k-word and being called SA's No 1 racist

Former estate agent Penny Sparrow, who was found guilty of hate speech after taking to Facebook in which she likened black beachgoers to monkeys, died on Thursday, her family confirmed in a statement. Here are 5 quotes from her interview with News24 in June 2016.

In one of her final public statements, Sparrow emotionally read her apology.

'It is difficult to put into words the regret I feel'

In it she said: "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.

Soon after Sparrow appeared in court, others were also taken to task for racist slurs or posts.

Other incidents that made the news included estate agent Vicki Momberg, Gauteng sports, arts and culture department employee Velaphi Khumalo and Capetonian Matthew Theunissen.

Former Standard Bank economist Chris Hart resigned from his position after a post about apartheid was perceived as racist.

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Read more on:    penny sparrow  |  kwazulu-natal  |  racism
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