File photo: The station’s management apologised, but said while they were of the view that the comments might have been insensitive and in poor taste, Khambule was not intentionally trying to hurt or offend anyone.
Durban - Popular DJ Phat Joe is in trouble again. The radio personality, who is currently an afternoon DJ on East Coast Radio (ECR), has been criticised for saying on air that he was feeling “Down syndromish”. He made the comments during his show on Wednesday.

However, parents of children who have Down syndrome have criticised Phat Joe, whose real name is Majota Khambule.

They have expressed themselves on the radio station and on social media, saying they thought it was an “insensitive” comment.

Khambule was appointed as the drive-time anchor on ECR in September.

He has never been far from controversy.

His latest comment has resulted in at least one parent taking up the matter with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA).

Janus Horn has reported Khambule and ECR to the BCCSA. He has a two-year-old son, Nicholas, who was born with Down syndrome.

According to Wikipedia, Down syndrome is a genetic disorder associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features and mild to moderate intellectual disability.

Horn said he believed Khambule’s comments were in contravention of the BCCSA’s Code of Conduct, in particular paragraph 15.3 – “in the protection of privacy, dignity and reputation special weight must be afforded to the privacy, dignity and reputation of children, the aged and the physically and mentally disabled”.

Horn said: “It clearly states that the dignity of the physically and mentally disabled should be respected. Having a child with special needs – my son has Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) – it has become more and more difficult to find a school to place him in because of the stigma attached to Down syndrome.

Janus Horn with his 2-year-old son, Nicholas, who was born with Down syndrome. 

“It is my view that Phat Joe offended all people with Down syndrome, mocking them and insulting their level of intelligence.

“I further feel that this happened during peak-hour traffic and that he showed no remorse in his following show,” said Horn.

He added that such comments should be classified in the same category as hate speech because they were derogatory and demeaning.

“It is tough enough for parents to deal with children with Down syndrome. With the physical, medical, mental and other aspects involved, like the costs of raising children with special needs, we do not need such comments on air,” said Horn.

Another parent, Stephanie van der Vindt, has a 10-year-old son with Down syndrome. She also felt the comment was offensive and hurtful.

Van der Vindt said her son was not a statistic or a joke.

“He is strong, wilful, playful, adorable, stubborn and full of life. He has faced more hardships and difficulties in his 10 years on this earth than Phat Joe will ever in his lifetime. These children are motivated, determined and hardworking,” she said.

Van der Vindt believed that Khambule should use his status as a celebrity to educate the youth and not make reckless comments that affected people’s lives.

She said the Down syndrome community was outraged by his comments. “Maybe he should attend an event at the Down Syndrome Association and meet some people who have Down syndrome and have to live with age-old stigmas that are kept alive by ignorant people such as himself.”

Dr Pushpa Gramanie, chairperson of Down Syndrome Association KZN, echoed Horn’s comments and added that Khambule’s statement was disrespectful.

“Being a parent of a child with Down syndrome, I am personally offended. His lack of knowledge on the condition and his coining of the term ‘Down syndromish’ is utterly disparaging to say the least,” said Gramanie.

However, ECR could not understand what the fuss was about. The station’s management apologised, but said while they were of the view that the comments might have been insensitive and in poor taste, Khambule was not intentionally trying to hurt or offend anyone.

“He could have said a number of similar colloquialisms such as: ‘I am having a senior moment or an Alzheimic moment.’ The intention is not to denigrate seniors, people suffering from Alzheimer’s or Down syndrome, but rather to be self-denigrating for having trouble remembering – in this case the particular name of the show segment.

“We further don’t believe that any particular individual’s dignity, privacy or reputation was damaged by this comment as is required by Section 15 of the BCCSA Code,” ECR management said.

ECR said an interview with the general manager of Down Syndrome Association KZN was scheduled to take place on Khambule’s afternoon drive show on Monday.

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