Two years for racist rant

2018-03-29 14:03
Former real estate agent Vicki Momberg became the first person in South Africa to be sent to jail for crimen injuria for her racist tirade.

Former real estate agent Vicki Momberg became the first person in South Africa to be sent to jail for crimen injuria for her racist tirade. (Felix Dlangamandla )

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Former real estate agent Vicki Momberg on Wednesday began serving her effective two-year jail term for her racist tirade in 2016.

Randburg magistrate Pravina Rugoonandan sentenced her to three years’ imprisonment, with one year suspended for three years on condition that she does not commit the offence again.

Momberg was also denied bail pending her application for leave to appeal, which was adjourned to April 6.

Gail Smith, spokesperson for the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), said the sentence sets a precedent because no one has been sent to jail for crimen injuria before. It confirms the constitutional protection of human dignity.

“We welcome the court’s definitive judgment on the seriousness infringing on the right to human dignity and crimen injuria. We hope that all who live in SA — nationals and non-nationals alike — understand that the Constitution is the highest law in the land and that those who breach it will get punished.”

She said courts will take note of this judgment in future similar cases based on the use of the k-word and other offensive epithets such as baboon and monkey when used in relation to people.

On Wednesday as the sentence was handed down, Momberg wiped away her tears.

She was found guilty on four counts of crimen injuria on November 3, in connection with her rant, which started when she lashed out at a black police officer who had helped her after an alleged smash-and-grab incident in Northriding, Johannesburg.

In a video clip that went viral, Momberg could be heard complaining about the “calibre of blacks” in Johannesburg.

On Wednesday, Rugoonandan said that everyone had a right to dignity that needed to be respected and protected.

Rugoonandan said the police officers who assisted Momberg were in uniform and ready to serve, and Momberg’s slurs stripped the officers of their dignity.

At a previous sitting, prosecutor Yusuf Baba told the court that Momberg’s was the worst crimen injuria case the courts had dealt with.

Baba quoted from a 2014 case, Prinsloo v State, in which the Supreme Court of Appeal stated that the word k****rs was racially abusive and was used in its injurious sense.

“It is my submission that a suitable sentence is direct imprisonment without the option of a fine,” Baba said at the time.

However, the defence’s Kevin Lawlor countered that sentencing must be fair and balanced. Lawlor asked for Momberg to be sent for rehabilitation instead of direct imprisonment.

Lawlor said after falling victim to a smash-and-grab incident Momberg was not in a normal state of mind and was caught in an “emotional storm”.

“She was vulnerable and alone at night. She was victim to a crime,” Lawlor said.

Civil rights organisation AfriForum said the sentence confirmed that SA has “double standards” regarding race.

Its deputy CEO, Ernst Roets, said Momberg’s remarks were indeed racist and need to be condemned, however, the inconsistency being applied in this country regarding minorities had reached the level of “absurdity”.

“The reality in SA is that a white person who insults a black person goes to prison, while a senior officer in the defence force who says that white people’s eyes and tongues must be stabbed out is simply asked nicely not to repeat it ... an influential political leader talking about genocide is rewarded with an invitation to join the ruling party.”

Momberg is not the first in the spotlight for racist remarks.

Penny Sparrow became infamous in 2016 for comparing black people to monkeys. She was criminally charged and sentenced to pay a R150 000 fine to the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation within 60 days. She has not done so.

The KZN estate agent described black beachgoers on Facebook as “monkeys”, in reaction to litter left behind after New Year’s celebrations.

Nolwazi Kunene, of the foundation, told The Witness on Wednesday that they were still waiting for the money.

In another case, Matthew Theunissen wrote on Facebook in May 2016: “So no more sporting events for South Africa ...” He used racist and lewd language in his post and got into trouble with the SAHRC for his rant. He agreed to do community service as a sanction.

Also that month, there was a wave of criticism and anger against high court Judge Mabel Jansen after excerpts of a private conversation she was having with social activist Gillian Schutte, where she said gang rapes of babies, daughters, and mothers were a pleasurable pastime for black men, leaked.

“In their culture, a woman is there to pleasure them. Period. It is seen as an absolute right and a woman’s consent is not required,” she wrote.

She subsequently went on special leave while the JSC conducted an investigation into her comments. She went before the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) in January 2017, and it was decided that her remarks constituted a prima facie case of “gross incompetence”.

The JCC recommended the complaints be investigated and reported on by the Judicial Conduct Tribunal. The committee said it was concerned that, potentially at least, she could not be impartial when adjudicating cases involving a certain sector of society. The judge resigned in 2017.

In March that year, Standard Bank economist Chris Hart resigned after he came under fire after he tweeted: “More than 25 years after apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities.”

He apologised, saying: “This tweet has caused offence — never intended for which I apologise wholeheartedly. Meant to be read in context of slow growth.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  racism

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