Cape Town - More than 200 racism complaints were reported to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) during a seven-month period – most due to posts made on social media.
This is as social media specialists have warned people that omitting their company’s name or writing “in my private capacity” when posting on social media accounts is not protection against legal implications. It comes as Vivienne Catherine Basson of Johannesburg, a project planner at Ericsson, was fired on Tuesday after posting a racist remark on her Facebook account.
The status posted after a taxi had allegedly knocked her car, said: “Effing k***** taxi. And once again I vote for the death penalty. These savages don’t deserve to live. But more importantly Daniel is alive and I am alive. They can rot in hell.”
Basson also attached pictures of the damaged bumper on her silver car.
Scores of Twitter users were outraged when the screen shot taken of her post trended on Tuesday. While Basson attempted to apologise for her post, insisting that she was not racist, many Twitter users called for her immediate dismissal.
Ericsson South Africa’s official Twitter account was inundated with tweets demanding that she be fired.
Managing director Magnus Mchunguzi said Basson was fired because she had breached their code of business ethics.
“We have a zero tolerance policy against all kinds of discrimination. The individual involved has been summarily dismissed,” he said.
When asked for further comment on the matter, Mchunguzi said no additional details would be given.
On Wednesday SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena said most of the 233 racism cases they dealt with between last April and January were from posts made on Facebook and Twitter. Mangena added that the commission welcomed Basson’s dismissal.
“We have decided to launch our own investigation which our officials have already started looking at. Racism remains the highest in terms of the numbers of complaints received by the commission,” he said.
Social media consultant Tamsyn de Beer said while the content of the post may not be unlawful, it could still have very serious consequences and even result in dismissal.
“We’ve seen loads of cases like this. If someone can be identified as an employee of a company, they can be charged with bringing the company’s name or image into disrepute. However, if it wasn’t on social networks then we have to ask if (Ericsson) would have found out about the post or acted on it,” she said.
De Beer said social media made it difficult for many people to draw a line between their corporate and private lives.
“People think they are covered when they state on the Twitter or Facebook accounts that they are posting in their personal capacity, but it actually has no legal meaning at all. When things are said on social media, you loose control of your audience and there is no context to what is being posted.” - Cape Times