Man found guilty in Diwali racism case

2019-11-20 11:27
Gavel (iStock)

Gavel (iStock)

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A Greytown man was on Tuesday found guilty of the crimen injuria charges against him after he posted a racist Facebook message directed at his neighbour, who was letting off fireworks in celebration of Diwali.

Johan Olivier had written a post criticising his neighbour, Regesh Govender, a Hindu, for celebrating Diwali with fireworks on November 7 last year. Olivier, an animal rights activist, was angry that the noise was causing distress to his pets.

In the post filled with swear words, he used the derogatory term “c**ly v**lie” to refer to Indian people. The post attracted much criticism, with dozens on Facebook labelling Olivier a racist. The post was taken down a few days later and Olivier posted an apology to the Hindu community.

Olivier had previously pleaded not guilty to the crimen injuria charges against him, claiming that the post was a mistyped error.

On Tuesday, Magistrate V.B. Zwane convicted Olivier.

Throughout the trial, Olivier has been representing himself, but on Tuesday he was represented by an attorney, Carl Johnson.

It was revealed in court that Olivier had three previous convictions, which include drunken driving, assault and possession of stolen goods. He is self-employed and owns a structural steel work company with 10 employees. Olivier also said he is an animal activist and is popularly known as “Monkey Man” because of his humanitarian job of rescuing distressed animals in the Greytown community.

When the state called Govender, who laid the charges against Olivier, to the stand, it was also revealed that Olivier has been either banned or suspended from visiting three eateries in Greytown because of his racist and vulgar comments. All three eateries have different owners, but one belongs to Govender.

Giving evidence before his sentencing, Olivier said that despite having been found guilty, he had not intended posting the racist post on his Facebook page and said he had pleaded not guilty to prove that he was not a racist.

“I am not a racist. I have never been a racist and will never be a racist,” said Olivier.

He said he had, on several occasions, tried to reach out to Govender to convey his apology, but Govender had refused to forgive him.

“I have apologised to all the Indian people I know and had also posted an apology on Facebook,” said Olivier.

While also on the stand, Govender pleaded with the court to give Olivier the harshest sentence so that he would not be racist towards other people again.

Magistrate Zwane adjourned the matter to December 6 for sentencing.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  dewali racism

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