DURBAN - “I’m prepared to do anything to correct what I’ve done. Please, I want South Africans to advise me. I’m receiving threats, my children are being threatened, you have no idea. I just don’t know what to do, please help.”
These are the words of Port Elizabeth self-proclaimed DA activist, Gretchen November, who sparked a social-media storm this week when she described new Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani as a “baboon” in a private WhatsApp chat with her colleagues.
But Neeshan Balton, of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, which runs the Racism Stops With Me Campaign, said it was difficult to tell perpetrators of racism what to do when they pleaded for help because elements of remorse were only reflected once they were caught out.
November experienced the Twitter wrath, with users calling for her to be “dealt with”, and all her personal details posted online.
Her apology has largely been rejected online, while Gretchen claims she is now living in fear and under medical sedation.
The unemployed mother of four pleaded for advice, saying she had learnt her lesson - and blamed the ANC and the EFF for her anger.
“I am not a racist, I don’t know what came over me in that moment, but I was so angry at what they were doing to the country,” she said.
Asked to whom she was referring, she quipped: “They - those ANC and EFF people.”
When asked what lessons she had learnt, November replied: “I’ve learnt to keep my comments to myself. I should have never said what I did on a group chat.”
Probed on whether she had learnt how sensitive racial issues were, she replied: “Yes, that too.”
Approached for comment, DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi said he had never heard of November and was not aware of her racist comments.
“Are you sure she is a DA member? I need proof,” he said.
November’s comments come in the wake of other social media exposure of people using racist terms. Two weeks ago, Gauteng businessman Adam Catzavelos caused a stir after a video he shared with friends was posted online. In the clip, Catzavelos, who was holidaying in Greece, used the k-word.
Most South Africans have expressed outrage over racist language, calling for action to be taken - some encouraging a violent retaliation, others calling for organisations such as the SA Human Rights Commission to intervene.
Balton said: “They fail to understand the consequences of their actions. In some cases, there is a lack of sincerity and genuineness in their remorse.”
He said it was important for legislative measures to follow so that racists could learn about the consequences of their actions.
Durban-based lawyer Ahmed Amod, who has dealt with social media cases, warned against any defamatory use of social media, saying those implicated could face jail.
“People do not realise that communication has changed. The use of social media platforms comes with responsibility and risk. Closeted racists are now being exposed, and rightly so.
“But we need to ensure that holding those to account must be done in a legal way. Calling for death to those guilty of racism is counter- productive,” he said.