Man pleads not guilty over ‘racist’ FB posts

2019-10-18 13:42
Gavel and scales

Gavel and scales

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The Greytown man who allegedly posted a series of “racist” Facebook posts directed at his neighbour who was letting off fireworks in celebration of Diwali pleaded not guilty on Thursday to the crimen injuria charges against him.

Johan Olivier, who appeared at the Greytown Magistrate’s Court, had written a post criticising his neighbour, Regesh Govender, a Hindu, for celebrating Diwali with fireworks on November 7 last year. Olivier, who said he was an animal rights activist, was angry that the noise caused distress to his pets.

In the post filled with swear words, he uses a derogatory term to refer to Indian people and goes on to say that if the “NSPCA does not sort this sh*t out, I will with some serious sh*t”. The post attracted much criticism, with dozens on Facebook labelling Olivier a racist. The post was taken down a few days later.

Olivier, who had no legal representative and was representing himself, said: “I plead not guilty because when I posted the message on Facebook it was not directed at no person. I didn’t post any names or whatever. What I posted was purely for Diwali and there was a typing error,” he said.

Giving evidence, Govender, who laid crimen injuria charges against Olivier, alleged that in another post, Olivier had named him, confirming that the first post was also directed to him.

“In the second post, where he spelt my name wrong, Mr Olivier said ‘Reyesh Govender you target my house again there will be a harsh outcome. That’s a warning, not a threat’.”

He said his and Olivier’s homes are separated by one house between them.

Govender explained that the derogatory term used by Olivier was racist and equivalent to the k-word used for black people. He went on to say that even if his name was not mentioned directly, he would have still laid charges as the term was an attack on the entire Hindu community. Govender also argued that he was well within the Diwali firework celebration by-laws that states that fireworks could be set off between 7 pm and 10 pm.

A quarrel broke out between Olivier and Govender when Olivier was cross-examining Govender. Magistrate V.B. Zwane had to intervene on several occasions and steer Olivier back to his task of asking questions and staying on topic.

Olivier pointed out that he and Govender have for the past two years had a good relationship free of any racial incidents. He also said he had retracted the statement he made on Facebook and apologised to the Hindu community for his statements.

About an hour into the trial, state prosecutor, Zenzele Ndebele, asked that the matter be adjourned to November 7 to allow Olivier to also give evidence.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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