File picture

Durban - Two prominent businessmen will go head to head on Monday in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court in what is expected to result in a landmark ruling on racism between two black men.

Recently appointed CEO of Investec, Fani Titi, brought a case of crimen injuria against a former business associate, Peter-Paul Ngwenya, who allegedly called him the k-word.

They were both reportedly embroiled in a messy fight over R54-million allegedly owed to Ngwenya by Titi in a business deal for their radio stations, Gagasi, Kaya and Heart FM.

Titi reportedly first obtained a protection order against Ngwenya and then pursued a crimen injuria case after Ngwenya allegedly sent him and others a text message and referred to him as a “QwaQwa k*****r”.

The case follows the widely reported case of Vicki Momberg, who was recently sent to prison for three years after she was found guilty of racism.

Momberg was caught on video in 2016 using the k-word 48 times against police officers after a smash-and-grab incident.

Last month cabinet approved a bill to criminalise hate crimes and hate speech.

The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crime and Hate Speech Bill will now be sent to Parliament for processing.

The proposed legislation states that you will be committing a crime of “hate speech” by simply “insulting” someone with the intention of bringing them into “contempt” or by ridiculing them based on anything from “belief” or “occupation” to the contentious elements like race, gender, and religion.

This could then condemn you to prison for up to three years for a first offence, and for 10 years if you do it again.

Public law and political analyst Lukhona Mnguni said the use of the k-word evoked values of the past and action should not be taken based on race.

“This case will be very interesting because the court will have to make a ruling that will equalise all of us across racial divisions. The k-word invokes emotions because of what it was meant for in the past. No one should be using it,” he said.

He said although he did not know the background to Titi’s case, both parties could be brought into disrepute given the fact that the dispute had arisen over a business deal gone wrong.

He said he hoped the case could be resolved amicably.

He added that morality could not be legislated. It all depended on how people treated each other in their encounters.

“It’s not clear what they mean by certain words. At what point do you interpret certain words as an insult,” said Mnguni.

“In South Africa we have got freedom of speech and there’s also an equality court, which deals with cases of hate speech. With the new bill I don’t think we are working on the right thing. It will be inviting legal challenges.”

He said it was important to foster social cohesion.

“We disrespect each other because of socio-economic disparities. High class divides create a problem. That’s when people start not tolerating others,” said Mnguni.

[email protected]

Sunday Tribune