Penny Sparrow, a former Jawitz Properties estate agent created a social media uproar after a racist rant on her facebook page. Pic: Facebook
Penny Sparrow, a former Jawitz Properties estate agent created a social media uproar after a racist rant on her facebook page. Pic: Facebook

Online race war fury

By Shain Germaner And Carlo Petersen Time of article published Jan 5, 2016

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Johannesburg - A former estate agent’s racist rant on Facebook has led to the DA , the ANC Youth League and a private individual bringing criminal charges against her.

On Saturday, Penny Sparrow was unknown to most South Africans, but her Facebook post calling black people “monkeys” has made the real estate agent one of the most reviled figures on local social media in months.

On Monday, more than 64 000 people had something to say about Sparrow’s rant on Facebook alone, and reports emerged that the anger erupting over her post about revellers in Durban on New Year’s Eve had even led to threats against her.

And despite an ill-received apology posted by Sparrow on social media - and her removal of the offending post - the DA on Monday announced it would be laying charges of crimen injuria against her.

On Monday, DA leader Mmusi Maimane called Sparrow’s comments insulting and urged that legal processes be pursued.

His tweet read: “@MmusiMaimane: #PennySparrow comments are racist. They are an insult to me and to our party. We have too many of these in SA & we must criminalise these.”

Sparrow has been served with a notice of intention to suspend her membership of the DA and the party has also referred her conduct to the Federal Legal Commission for investigation.

In a written statement, the party’s Herman Mashaba indicated he had opened a case against Sparrow for “infringing the dignity of all South Africans and for dehumanising black South Africans”.

ANC national spokesman Zizi Kodwa blamed DA shadow deputy minister of public works Dianne Kohler Barnard who was recently sacked by the DA for sharing a Facebook post praising the record of PW Botha as president.

Kohler Barnard was reinstated last month after successfully appealing against her dismissal.

In another Facebook post Justin van Vuuren also referred in a derogatory way to the scene on Durban's beachfront over New Year, stating “these ppl (people) are destroying the beach” and urging them to “go back to where you came from and take your 13 kids with you”. He also called for the popular pomenade to be privatised.

“The ANC acknowledges that many white people are committed to a unified nation, but many others still remain inspired by SA’s apartheid past,” Kodwa said.

The ANC Youth League of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the Tshwane Branch, are among others to condemn Sparrow’s comments as racist and reckless.

In a statement the ANCYL said it would lay criminal charges as well as lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

The latter was a view supported by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who when asked said on Twitter: “Cases of racism & racial discrimination may be reported to the South African Human Rights Commission or Equality Court.”

A Pretoria resident felt so strongly about the comments that he has opened a case of crimen injuria against Sparrow at the Brooklyn police station.

Sithembile Simmelane said he felt wronged and demeaned by Sparrow’s remarks and feels that black people’s rights have been trampled upon.

It wasn’t just Sparrow’s own reputation that’s been tarnished by her poorly-considered actions, as her former employers, Jawitz Properties, have also come under scrutiny for employing her. Despite the fact that she left the company in November last year, she had failed to remove her links to the company on her own social media pages and the company’s website.

This meant that those who tried to Google the estate agent immediately associated her with the company, and according to chief executive Herschel Jawitz, this has caused massive damage to the brand.

He was quick to distance his company saying: “We condemn these statements outright. It’s not acceptable in any context, personally or professionally.”

Sparrow has so far been unavailable for comment, despite numerous attempts to contact her.

But according to reports by Media24, her family members were fearing for their lives.

Sparrow is not alone being in the eye of a social media storm. The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) responded on Monday to various racist comments, including one in which black people on Durban’s beachfront were described as “animals” and told to “go back to where you are coming from”.

AKF director Neeshan Balton also strongly condemned comments by Standard Bank economist Chris Hart - who has since been suspended by the bank pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.

The bank has distanced itself from Hart’s tweet on Sunday that “more than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities”, saying the comments “are factually incorrect, make inappropriate assumptions about South Africa and have racist undertones”.

Balton called on South Africans to recall the struggle to open beaches to all during the 1980s and called on them to act against racism. AKF and the Nelson Mandela Foundation are set to host a series of workshops and conferences called the Anti-Racism Network of South Africa during anti-racism week scheduled to run from March 14 to 21.

The Human Rights Commission has confirmed that it will investigate the recent spate of racial abuse on social media.

The Star and Cape Times

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