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The racist Tweets of models Jessica Leandra dos Santos and Tshidi Thamana have caused more of a storm on social networks and the internet than the recent filmed gang-rape incident.
Tim Shier, managing director of BrandsEye, a company which collects social data for company use in making business decisions, said the racism spat went viral because it was an issue that’s closer to people than rape.
Although the reaction to the rape case and to the racism case was the same in terms on volume on the day the stories broke, reaction to the racism issue continued much longer.
“This is because people are sensitive to rape, but they have investment in racism. People agree rape is wrong and we need to stand up against it, but they are more empowered and aware of racism because it happens around them all the time and affects them directly and personally. Rape is considered as ‘something which doesn’t happen to us’. The response by people in social media to these issues is emotive and personally driven by people and it measures how society feels,” he said.
Victor Moaga of the Human Rights Commission said complaints against both models had been received – 48 against Dos Santos and 46 against Thamana.
Dos Santos – who made headlines by tweeting racist comments and then went silent – believes she “brought South Africa to its knees”, is sorry and is now anxious to make amends.
But Dos Santos’s Tweet raised the ire of another model, Tshidi Thamana, who responded with her own racist Tweet, wishing that all whites were killed.
Taking advantage of the media storm, DA spokesman Mmusi Maimane publicly invited the two models to visit him at his home to discuss their racist views.
So far only Dos Santos has replied, gushing that she is keen to mend her ways.
On Friday, Dos Santos came under fire for tweeting: “Just, well took on an arrogant and disrespectful k***** inside Spar. Should have punched him, should have.”
A few days later Thamana responded on Twitter with her own brand of racism: “Dear Mr Peter Makoba (sic)… I wish All White People were killed when you sang ‘kill the boer’ we wouldn’t be experiencing @Jessica Leandra’s racism right now**”
Maimane aims to use this experience to educate the models on racial tolerance.
Dos Santos has been dropped by her sponsors and lost several modelling contracts, but it is unclear whether Thamana, who describes herself as Tshiditee/Ms Capricorn on Twitter, has been affected at all.
On Monday Maimane wrote an open letter to the two, saying he was “angry and disappointed at the naked display of racism”, and while he commended the two for apologising, he believed that damage had been done.
“I am in what might have been called under apartheid a ‘mixed marriage’. Under that regime my marriage would have been illegal.
“The state would have punished my wife and me just for being in love with each other. The new South Africa changed all that…
“But this doesn’t mean that my wife and I don’t get stared at when we hold hands in public. And I know that, one day, our daughter will have to deal with racist bigots who can’t accept that her parents don’t have the same skin colour,” he wrote.
Maimane challenged the two to meet with him and talk through their issues in person.
The DA received this open letter from Dos Santos:
Dear Mr Mmusi Maimane,
I thank you for the open letter posted to Tshidi and myself.
I acknowledge that my inbox has been flooded with requests and invites for radio interviews, press reports and the like since my irresponsible Twitter ordeal. I have chosen to ignore these requests as I don’t believe that telling my side of the story is really what the nation wants to hear.
It further concerns me that these requests for interviews aim to score points for journalists and/or listenership ratings on his or her show.
At this moment I accept and acknowledge that I have brought this nation of ours to its knees. I now intend to mend my ways and ensure that I restore the trust of all South Africans. I beg of you that this should not become a party political issue. If anything, this needs to become a healing process and a process of uniting the nation back to where we were a week ago.
Tshidi, I am appealing to you to embrace this opportunity and walk this road jointly with me. I know in my heart that you too don’t harbour the hatred that you displayed on Twitter in response to my ludicrous and irresponsible tweet.
Together we can do a great deal for our nation.
Fellow South Africans, my uncalculated Tweet was not intended to hurt an entire nation but simply directed at one individual, and I ask that you forgive my actions and help me along the way.
We South Africans have many more important matters to concern ourselves with right now than to slander each other’s race.
Mr Maimane, I look forward to working with you. Together we shall achieve.
Jessica Leandra Dos Santos