Comedian could face criminal charges after Equality Court finds him guilty of hate speech

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Comedian Hamilton Mkhothokgo, 20, could face criminal charges after the Equality Court found him guilty of hate speech.
Comedian Hamilton Mkhothokgo, 20, could face criminal charges after the Equality Court found him guilty of hate speech.
PHOTO: iStock
  • A young comedian could face criminal charges after being found guilty of making discriminatory remarks about the Vatsonga nation by the Equality Court.
  • Hamilton Mkhothokgo, also known as Mr Chase, posted on social media that the Vatsonga nation must be sacrificed to Covid-19 as they didn't bring value to society.
  • The court ordered that Mkhothokgo pay damages to an NGO identified by the SAHRC and apologise on all his social media platforms.

A Limpopo comedian could face criminal charges after the Equality Court found him guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Vatsonga nation.

Student Hamilton Mkhothokgo, 20, who goes by the stage name Mr Chase, made comments about offering the lives of the Vatsonga nation as sacrifices to the Covid-19 virus.

Mkhothokgo said the Vatsonga nation did not bring any value to society.

The remarks were widely disseminated on social media platforms.

The Limpopo office of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) received a complaint from members of the public in July 2020.

SAHRC Limpopo chairperson Victor Mavhidula said the commission was convinced the remarks constituted hate speech, harassment and unfair discrimination based on ethnic and social origin.

Mavhidula said:

The commission then approached the Equality Court in Tiyani, Limpopo to ventilate the matter as it related to tribalism, as the fragile nature of ethnic and tribal relations and social cohesion in South Africa, and specifically within the Limpopo province, frequently dominates media reports.

"The SAHRC was of the view that the remarks were harmful to our democracy and if not rebuked, it may fuel further tribalistic tensions within the country."

On Tuesday, the Equality Court sitting in the Tiyani Magistrate's Court delivered a scathing judgment lambasting the young man's actions.

"The court indicated that Mkhothokgo's right to freedom of expression as stipulated in the Constitution did not outweigh the right to dignity and equality of the Mashangaan and Vatsonga people, who were at the receiving end of the prejudicial remarks," Mavhidula said.

Effects of colonialism

The court further described the negative effects colonialism had on the separation of Africans into homelands, and said this was exploited by the apartheid government.

Mavhidula said the court also questioned why a 20-year-old young man who only lived, as the court described it, "with the hangover of apartheid", would share and propagate the views of oppressive regimes.

Mavhidula said:

This, the court indicated, could only be as a result of indoctrination by others who actively seek to dismantle the objectives of the Constitution. The court found in favour of the SAHRC.

The Equality Court found that Mkhothokgo's comments constituted hate speech and harassment based on social and ethnic origin, culture and language.

Mkhothokgo was ordered to pay damages to an NGO identified by the SAHRC, which works directly on social cohesion matters promoting the rights of the Vatsonga and Mashangaan ethnic groups.

The court also ordered the comedian to apologise on all his media platforms for the abovementioned transgressions.

READ | No denying problem of tribalism in Limpopo

"The court was also confronted with the predicament that although the respondent was found to be in contravention of the Equality Act, he would be unable to pay the fines prayed for by the SAHRC.

"To address this, and to prevent respondents who transgress the abovementioned act from thinking they may propagate inflammatory and harmful statements without having to account for it, the court made an order which directed the clerk of the Equality Court to submit the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, having jurisdiction for the possible institution of criminal proceedings, in terms of the common law or relevant legislation," he added.

Mavhidula said the court "also requested the clerk of the court to actively inform it as well as the SAHRC on progress made on the criminal proceedings to be instituted".

He added:

The judgment is welcomed and lauded by the SAHRC, as it is novel in its application of Section 10 of the Equality Act towards the protection of the rights of persons belonging to specific ethnic groups.

Mavhidula said the court was meticulous in measuring Mkhothokgo's rights against that of those affected and confirmed that although the respondent meant the statements as a joke, his intent was irrelevant.

"The judgment is a warning to all those who move to hide their bigotry under the mantle of comedy and freedom of expression, and the SAHRC will continue to expose and pursue those who stray from the mandate of social cohesion derived from the Constitution," he said.

When News24 contacted Mkhothokgo's listed mobile number, someone answered but promptly hung up or the call was cut. When News24 called a second time, a man answered saying he couldn't help the journalist.

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