Johannesburg - The murder of Port Elizabeth teacher Jayde Panayiotou has whipped up a race storm on social media.

Panayiotou’s killing sent shockwaves through the country this week after police released an identikit of 31-year-old Thando Siyoli, listed as a suspect in the murder of the 28-year-old Uitenhage teacher. A Facebook group was subsequently set up calling for the death penalty for the killer, but as soon as Panayiotou’s husband, Christopher, was confirmed as another suspect in her killing, the page announced that it would be changing its name to “Justice for Jayde Panayiotou – Change for South Africa”.

This sparked a heated racial row. Many lamented the change, labelling it an act of “racism”. “Is it because the face of the criminal has changed that we no longer endorse the death penalty,” one comment read.

Another tweeter asked the administrator to explain the reasoning behind the name change: “What’s good for one is good for the other,” Samantha Bronkhorst posted on the page.

Lynn Schenk was also outraged by the proposed name change. Dorette Field demanded that the administrator keep the name of the page as it is: “We all marched and stood in unity that the killers be caught and brought to book. Whether you are white, or black, or coloured, the same punishment must be handed out.”

The administrator later replied that the change in the name of the page had been planned before Panayiotou had been confirmed as a suspect.

“Why now change the name of the group,” said Tammy Gilmour. “The same penalty should apply to everyone; white, black, pink and green…” she added.

The race row has also spilled over onto Twitter where many South Africans have been split along racial lines.

After it was announced that Panayiotou’s husband had been arrested, Rebecca Davis tweeted: “Hey all the people who called for the death penalty for Jayde’s killers: trust you’ll feel the same way if the husband is guilty.”

Karen Pinto however, tweeted: “89% of crimes committed in SA are committed by blacks – stats. The murderer was a black person; a black pulled the trigger – the white man ordered it.”

Meanwhile, it turns out that the almost poetic eulogy delivered by Christopher Panayiotou at his wife’s funeral on Monday, was plagiarised from a 2010 eulogy posted on a Buddhist blog by a Charles Atkins for his wife, Jennifer. – Additional reporting by Fatima Schroeder

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Saturday Star