In a landmark ruling, for what lawyers believe to be the first time ever in South Africa, a person has been sentenced to prison for verbal racial abuse.
According to The Guardian, Vicki Momberg was sentenced to three years in prison (with one year suspended) for hurling offensive, racist slurs at a black police officer in a case that showed just how little has changed in South Africa since the end of apartheid.
As the report notes, in 2015, a video clip of the incident went viral. The officer was attempting to help Momberg after thieves broke into her car at night at a shopping center, only for the officer to be rejected solely based on his race.
The video showed Momberg requesting to be helped by a white or ethnic Indian officer, saying that black people were “plain and simple useless” and “they are clueless.”
Throughout the video, she uses the word “kaffir”—one of the worst terms of hate speech in South Africa—and also referred to the policeman that way several times.
“The kaffirs here in Jo’burg are terrible,” she complained, using the shorthand term for the South African city of Johannesburg. “I’m so sick of it, I really am.
“I don’t care what anyone says, I do not like a single black in Jo’burg,” she added. “I don’t care ... you can put me on the media. I hate every one of them!”
Well, she certainly got the attention she wanted.
According to The Guardian, Momberg shed
crocodile tears as the judge read the sentence, finding her guilty on four counts.
Justice Minister Michael Masutha is hoping that the sentence serves as a deterrent, since others convicted of similar crimes have usually escaped with a fine.
“It was a question of escalating and intensifying the fight against racism by finding even more sterner measures,” he told eNCA television, The Guardian notes.
With apartheid—South Africa’s institutionalized racism—only coming to an end a little over two decades ago, the country still grapples with racial issues.
From The Guardian:
Despite the emergence of a black middle class, income gaps remain clearly visible along race lines, fuelling perceptions of white privilege. Black people make up 80 percent of South Africa’s population of 54 million, but most its wealth remains in the hands of white people, who account for about 8 percent.
There are also other particularly horrifying cases; back in October, for example, two white farmers were sentenced to prison for attempted murder, assault and kidnapping after chilling video showed them forcing a wailing black man into a coffin.