Sentence for Diwali racism ‘light’

2019-12-12 16:33

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The Greytown man who was found guilty of crimen injuria after he posted a racist Facebook message directed at his neighbour was sentenced to a R10 000 fine, or three years in prison.

But Greytown businessman Regesh Govender, who laid the charges against his neighbour, Johan Olivier, was not happy about the sentence.

“I was hoping the sentence would be more stringent than this, not just a slap on the wrist with a R10 000 fine.

“This is a light sentence considering that it is hate speech. Hate speech should be treated more seriously by the court. Everybody was shocked by the magistrate’s outcome,” said Govender.

Olivier had written a post criticising neighbour 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 a derogatory term 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.

During the trial it was revealed that Olivier, who is self-employed, had three previous convictions, which include drunken driving, assault and possession of stolen goods.

When the state called Govender to the stand during the trial, it was also revealed that Olivier had 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 had 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. He said he had, on several occasions, tried to reach out to Govender to convey his apology, but Govender had refused to forgive him.

President of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha Ashwin Trikamjee, who is also a prominent Durban lawyer, said Olivier’s sentence was fair. “It shows that the wheels of justice demonstrate that people can’t get away with such things,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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