Racism: Penny Sparrow fined R150K, community service for Theunissen
Penny Sparrow and Matthew Theunissen will pay for racist comments
they made on social media – a R150 000 fine for Sparrow and community service
The Umzinto Equality Court today ruled that controversial
KwaZulu-Natal realtor Penny Sparrow must pay R150 000 to the Oliver and Adelaide
Thambo for her racist comments, and Capetonian Matthew Theunissen will do
community service for sports development in a disadvantaged part of Cape Town as
part of a settlement agreement.
Magistrate Irfaan Khalil said Sparrow had to pay the amount within
60 days and he interdicted Sparrow from more hate speech.
Sparrow raised ire with a controversial Facebook post in which she
likened black beach-goers to monkeys.
Khalil said in his judgment: “Her words convey the message both
explicitly and implicitly to the reader that black people are not worthy of
being described as human beings – implicit in this is that they have lowered or
The outrage Sparrow stirred up with the post prompted the ANC to
approach the court in January. The ruling party said it wanted to find that her
utterances were racist and constituted hate speech.
Sparrow’s daughter Charmaine Cowie told the court earlier today
that her mother was “too sick” to appear for proceedings and feared for her
Last week the deputy sheriff had been 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 about her mother.
“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. She can’t be present because she fears for her life.”
Denzil Potgieter, for the ANC, said that it was clear that Cowie
was in contact with her mother, and decried the delay, saying that 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.
“She [Cowie] says her mother wants to find a way to apologise, and
that is one of the items sought in relief of this matter, that she [Sparrow]
will never engage in this detestable conduct again.”
He said it appeared that 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 ordered that the matter would proceed in the absence of
Theunissen, who vented on Facebook after the announcement that
sport teams that failed to transform were banned from bidding for or hosting
major events, will now do community service to come to grips with challenges in
disadvantaged communities, the South African Human Rights Commission said
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula announced on April 25 that he had
banned the country’s cricket, rugby, netball and athletics bodies from bidding
for, or hosting, major sporting events due to a lack of transformation. The
decision would be reviewed next year.
“This experience is meant to sensitise Theunissen to the need for
transformation and challenges facing poor disadvantaged communities in Cape
Town,” said commission spokesperson Isaac Mangena.
The community service would be three to six months long.
He also agreed to stay off social media for a year and undergo
anger management therapy.
Last month, Theunissen wrote on Facebook: “So no more sporting
events for South Africa... I’ve never been more proud than to say our government
are a bunch of KAFFIRS... yes I said it so go fuck yourselves you black fucking
The post went viral and the commission conducted its own initiative
Realising the “outrage and hurt” he had caused, Theunissen
responded immediately to the commission, Mangena told News24.
He gave them an additional statement and unconditional apology in
response to the allegations.
The latest remedial conduct was agreed to and recorded in a
conciliation meeting on Tuesday.
“Theunissen will also undertake research on anti-racism, diversity,
transformation and tolerance in general, and specifically within the area of
sport in order to achieve a greater understanding of transformation issues, and
the hurt caused by his post.”
Theunissen was asked to explore, reflect and understand what hate
speech and racism were and why hate speech was destructive to the transformation
He also had to look at “how white privilege functions in South
Mangena said Theunissen was doing all of this voluntarily and at
his own cost.
The parties agreed he would no longer publish or communicate any
discriminatory or hurtful language.
He would also refrain from activity on any social network for 12
months while undergoing rehabilitation.
He would report back to the commission after three months and
submit himself to spot checks.
Mangena said the resolution of the matter was facilitated by
Theunissen’s willingness to acknowledge his wrong doing, cooperate with them and
engage in rehabilitative conduct.
“The mediation of disputes in this manner must be understood as
more consistent with the principles of restorative justice, than with punitive
retributive justice sanctions, which can be meted out by the criminal justice
system.” – News24
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