Somizi Mhlongo
Cape Town - The family of a Cape Town teen embroiled in a homophobic and racist Twitter rant against TV personality Somizi Mhlongo say she’s living in fear after receiving death threats.

The 19-year-old student’s family have now hired well-known public relations practitioner Evelyn John Holtzhausen to mitigate the social media backlash and implement damage control.

Family and friends say Lia Meyer fears for her life after she received death threats on social media, including images of men holding guns, spears and axes directed at her.

This follows an inflammatory tweet posted from Meyer’s personal account in the early hours of Tuesday, which was directed at the flamboyant celebrity who hosted the South African Music Awards (Samas) at the weekend.

The post read: “Isn’t @somizi like a homosexual k*****tjie? (sic)”.

Meyer has denied posting the tweet from her @Liaa_Nu account, claiming her account was hacked.

On Saturday, Meyer laid charges at the Cape Town Central Police Station and asked them to investigate a breach of section 86 (1) of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 that states that “a person who intentionally accesses or intercepts any data without authority or permission to do, is guilty of an offence”.

In her affidavit, Meyer said the person responsible for the tweet had “committed further offences such as crimen injuria and fraud”.

In response to the offensive post, Mhlongo asked his 1.18million Twitter followers to track down Meyer, saying: “My tweeter investigators pls (sic) help find the details of this racist. Jail awaits her.”

Meyer responded on her own account: “I did not post this tweet and would never make such a remark. I take no responsibility for the view that was expressed in that tweet and sincerely apologise for the horrific message that was sent out.”

She has since deleted her Twitter profile and deactivated her Twitter account.

She also claimed to have reached out to Mhlongo on another social media platform, Instagram, as soon as she became aware of the offensive tweet.

The statement also said her family had contacted Mhlongo’s representatives to assure him that the account had been hacked, but received no response from the Idols SA judge.

Mhlongo confirmed that he had been speaking to his lawyers over possible legal action against Meyer and said there was no place for racists in South African society.

Police spokesperson Colonel Andre Traut confirmed that Meyer had opened a case and that it was under investigation.

In her affidavit, Meyer added: “I was extremely concerned, scared and worried as someone had clearly accessed my private information.

“I did not give anyone my permission to access my Twitter account.

“Although I haven’t used my Twitter account for about 13 months, it is still my account, and contains my personal data.

“I gave no one permission to access my data and certainly not to send a despicable tweet from the account.”

When Weekend Argus attempted to contact Meyer yesterday, a friend, Hannah Gauché, claimed the teen had gone to ground. She added that she “loved and supported” Meyer completely. 

“I defend her with no doubt in my mind that she’s telling the truth. I know she is an honourable person and myself and the people around her are trying to be the best support system we can,” she said.

Gauché took to her own Instagram page to post a statement of support for her friend.

“When the truth comes out I hope @somizi will have the decency to apologize to her publically (sic) for starting a witch hunt.

“It is against the law to incite violence against someone.

“Just as against the law as racism.”

Gauché went on to say that she hoped everyone who had “slandered” Meyer would be “decent” human beings and apologise.

This incident comes a mere three months after a legal precedent was set in March when former real estate agent Vicki Momberg was sentenced to an effective two years in prison by the Randburg Magistrate’s Court for her racist tirade in 2016.

Momberg’s case was one of a spate of high-profile racism cases which made national headlines, including some which have led to criminal crimen injuria convictions.

Crimen injuria is defined by South African law as “the unlawful, intentional and serious impairment of another person’s dignity”.

In August 2017, former estate agent Penny Sparrow was sentenced to a R150000 fine and two years’ suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to crimen injuria. In 2015, retired Pretoria High Court Judge Mabel Jansen also caused an uproar after her racist Facebook rant portrayed black men as rapists.

Institute of Race Relations (IRR) spokesperson Michael Morris said: “It is a universal weakness that some people say things - on social media in particular - in haste or in anger, or as a result of irrational and unfounded opinions about other people, without considering the consequences either for themselves or for the dignity of others.

“The understandable frustration among South Africans at the seeming impunity with which a minority continue to express racist attitudes means the consequences, whether in the workplace or the courts, shouldn’t be taken lightly,” said Morris. 

He added: “We are convinced that reasonable people have no hesitation in rejecting gratuitously racist or hurtful sentiments, and our research shows that most South Africans occupy this category, contrary to fears that racism is a large or growing problem in the country.”

In the most recent IRR poll in December - with a sample of 1000 people comprising 708 black people - 77% of black respondents said they had “never personally experienced racism”, while 92% of all South Africans and 90% of black respondents agreed that “the different races need each other for progress”.

Weekend Argus