‘The K-word is unacceptable. Momberg hate speech verdict reinforces that’

Vicki Momberg. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla
Vicki Momberg. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

The “K-word” is unacceptable in any context, says the South African Human Rights Commission, following a ruling that estate agent Vicky Momberg was guilty of hate speech.

The Randburg Equality Court on Thursday found Momberg guilty of hate speech in terms of Section 10 of the Equality Act, and found that Constable David Mkhondo’s right to human dignity was infringed upon.

The matter arose following a tirade of racial abuse directed at Mkhondo, following a smash-and-grab incident in February 2016. The incident was filmed and shared on social media.

In this video, she calls the police officers the K-word and and complains about the “calibre of black people” in Johannesburg.

“They are stubborn, arrogant and plain useless,” she said.

Mkhondo testified in March that he had asked a colleague to record video of Momberg lashing out at him.

He laid a charge of crimen injuria against Momberg and also lodged a complaint of hate speech with the human rights commission in February 2016. The commission approached the court as a second applicant in the matter.

According to the commission, the court ordered that Momberg issue an unconditional apology on social media within five days of the court order, that she perform community service for a period of not less than 100 hours, and that she attend equality sensitivity training.

The court also awarded monetary damages for Mkhondo’s emotional suffering.

“The commission welcomes the judgment and commends the court for including equality sensitivity training, underscoring the fact that we are all bearers of our constitutional obligations on the rights to dignity and equality,” said its spokesperson, Gail Smith, today.

Momberg, who hails from Durban, appeared on the same charge in Durban about 11 years ago, reported News24.

State prosecutor Yusuf Baba said that a Durban police officer had also laid a charge of crimen injuria against Momberg in 2006.

At the time, she had apparently walked into a police station and demanded that she be helped by “a white person, a Coloured person or an Indian”, but not a black person.

Although the charge in Durban had been withdrawn, Baba said it served as character evidence.

Momberg had pleaded not guilty to the four charges she faced in the Randburg court, offering non-pathological unaccountability as defence.

She maintained that the comments were not aimed specifically at the witnesses.

Momberg later admitted that she had made racist comments towards the police officers last year, but that she “can’t remember” what she had said.

She only became aware of the comments when the station manager of the Douglasdale police station informed her in April last year that Mkhondo, who works there, had laid a charge against her.

“The commission is of the view that there can never be any context in which the use of the K-word is acceptable,” said Smith.

“The commission is deeply concerned by the fact that violations of the right to equality and specifically hate speech based on race, occur so routinely among South Africans.”

According to the commission, violations of the right to equality are the number one human rights violation reported to it. During 2015-2016 the commission saw a significant increase in the number of complaints of racial discrimination.

Of the 749 equality related complaints received, 505 were on the basis of racial discrimination, many involving the use of hateful epithets.

Read: Penny Sparrow back in court on criminal charges for racist comments

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July 2020

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