South Africa has a sensitive racial history which carries through to society today. Racial tension is still very high and the government has been cracking down on racist acts, looking to level the playing field after years of racial segregation.
Despite the government's efforts, racist comments and violent acts have continued, getting worse recently with the mention of land expropriation without compensation. However, the racist comments aren't limited to a small group of citizens who happen to hold bitter views, as Julias Malema is well known for his remarks of anticipating the demise of the white population in South Africa. Social media has been rife with racial debate, some reasonable and others consisting of death threats towards the other race, especially regarding the farm killings.
The government had warned citizens about the strict consequences of racial acts and comments – as seen by the backlash against Penny Sparrow's racist rant on Facebook – but Vicki Momberg received much harsher consequences after her own racist rant at the scene of an accident where police were trying to assist her in 2016. This is the first time in South Africa that someone has been imprisoned due to racist language. Momberg found herself a victim of a smash and grab incident in Johannesburg in 2016 and, when the police arrived on the scene, she refused to accept help from Constable David Mkhondo. A recording shows that she was on the phone with someone, calling the police the k-word over the phone and, once she put the phone down ,she is heard telling Mkhondo and his colleagues that the "calibre of blacks" in Johannesburg was low, reportedly using the k-word a total of 48 times.
She was arrested, taken to court and found guilty on four counts of crimen injuria by the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. She appeared to show little remorse and even said that she believes the word is not offensive "unless they (black people) feel or believe they are what they are being called". Magistrate Pravina Rugoonandan said that Momberg had stripped the policeman's right to dignity and respect in his attempt to assist her. Magistrate Rugoonandan sentenced Momberg to three years of imprisonment of which one year was suspended. Yusuf Baba, the man who represented the state in this cased warned the public: “People need to watch their tongues before they talk. There are consequences for your actions. Harsher sentences must be meted out because of the abuse that takes place on a daily basis. We are experiencing this on a daily basis and as such a strong message has to be sent out.” He said that the actual recordings played in court were significantly harsher than the video that was leaked on social media and considers it necessary for the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill to be passed into law.
It serves as a warning to all South Africans that racism will no longer be tolerated.