NPA must consider criminal charges against Penny Sparrow

2016-06-10 15:57
Screengrab of Facebook post.

Screengrab of Facebook post.

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Umzinto - The Umzinto Equality Court on Friday referred the case of racist KwaZulu-Natal realtor Penny Sparrow to the NPA to determine if it will criminally prosecute her. 

Magistrate Irfaan Khalil instructed the clerk of the court to submit the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider instituting criminal proceedings.

Sparrow raised ire with a controversial Facebook post on January 2, in which she likened black beach-goers to monkeys. The ANC took the matter to court.

Khalil ruled that Sparrow had to pay R150 000 to the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation within 60 days. He ordered her to pay costs, and interdicted her from further hate speech. 

Although Sparrow was not in court, Khalil had stern words for her. 

“Her words convey the message both explicitly and implicitly to the reader that black people are not worthy are being described as human beings, implicit in this is that they have lowered or sub-human intelligence,” he said.  

"Use of the terms 'released' and 'allow them loose' is evidence of the respondent's view that black people should have restricted movement and that being black in a crowd is shameful."

Khalil said she should have known that her posts could be republished and she should have understood the potential for backlash. Words were powerful weapons and, if used indiscriminately, could have powerful reactions. 

“Retaliation by members of affected race groups could lead to chaos in South Africa. Hate speech by itself is capable of undoing the significant gains made since 1994.”

He chastised her for making no effort to apologise, which added insult to the “great hurt” she caused.

Too sick for court

Sparrow's daughter Charmaine Cowie told the court earlier on Friday that her mother was "too sick" to appear for proceedings and feared for her life.

Last week, the deputy sheriff was unable to track her down to serve court documents.

“She’s sick with sugar diabetes. She is unable to come to court today because of the stress that this has caused. She tried to get legal counsel but no one will represent her,” Cowie said.

“I needed to come through today to make an apology and make a postponement so she can find out what she can do to apologise for the comments she made on Facebook.”

Denzil Potgieter, for the ANC, said it was clear Cowie was in contact with her mother. He criticized the attempt to delay the matter, saying every method conceivable had been used to try and serve papers on Sparrow. 

“She has done nothing to approach the court and indicate what her attitude is towards the matter. This is not the conduct of a reasonable person who seriously intends to do something about this matter,” he said.  

He said it appeared there was nothing Sparrow wanted to add to the merits of the case. 

"She [Cowie] says the respondent fears for her life. Does this mean she will never come to court?" Potgieter asked. 

“This is a serious matter and there is no basis to delay it any further. There is a considerable public interest in this matter and it is in the interest of justice and of the public that it is disposed of."

Khalil then ordered that the matter proceed in Sparrow’s absence.

Read more on:    npa  |  durban  |  racism

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