Neighbour lays charges for racist Facebook post

A GREYTOWN businessman who was allegedly racially abused on social media during his Diwali celebration won’t accept an apology from the alleged culprit, and has opened a criminal case against him.

Regesh Govender, a Hindu celebrating Diwali with a fireworks display at his home, was allegedly referred to by a derogatory term in a Facebook post by his neighbour Johan Olivier.

Olivier said that he was angry at the time as the noise of fireworks was causing distress to his pets, and that bits of fireworks wrappings had fallen onto his property.

His post on Facebook drew a lot of criticism, and many commenters labelled Olivier a racist. It has since been taken down.

The post was roundly condemned by political parties and Hindu organisations.

Govender, who is from Pietermaritzburg, said on Thursday he was meeting a prosecutor at the Greytown Magistrate’s Court this week for an interview.

“I decided to criminally charge him [Olivier], I need to. This happens to other people [celebrating Diwali] and it has gone on for too long,” he said.

“It’s about religious tolerance; we were abiding by the law and not creating problems. I don’t know why people target us [Indians] on Diwali. If we just let it go it will carry on, so we have to put a stop to it.”

Govender said Olivier had approached his son to apologise, but the family is not interested in any apology.

Olivier also told The Witness that he had tried “a couple of times” to apologise.

“We live near each other so we often walk past each other, but we don’t say anything,” he said. “I’m letting it go. He [Govender] doesn’t want an apology. I am just backing off. If it goes to court then it goes to court.”

Olivier confirmed he was aware of the criminal case and had given a statement to police. He again underlined the fact that he is not a racist.

The Witness reported previously that Govender and Olivier had had run-ins prior to the Facebook incident, with Govender saying that he had banned Olivier from his restaurant for making racist remarks. Olivier, however, denied this.

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