Social media poses challenge
THE saga around the racist tweets posted by models Jessica Leandra dos Santos and Tshidi Thamana has raised important questions about the challenges this country faces in building a nonracial democratic society.
One such challenge is the role social media such as Twitter and Facebook play as means of communication to build the kind of society we aspire to.
A society in which every citizen enjoys the right to freedom of expression, dignity and privacy.
But also a society that understands that such rights come with the responsibility of ensuring we do not undermine the noble quest for a nonracial egalitarian South Africa.
The unfortunate reality is that the mushrooming of social media such as Twitter and Facebook have brought with them the challenge of how to ensure that these platforms are not used to undermine the said noble agenda.
It is estimated that Twitter has about 1.1 million registered South African users. Of these 500,000 are said to be active.
Unfortunately included in these figures are homophobes, racists, hate-mongers and generally vile people, whose mission is to thwart all efforts made to achieve the dream the likes of Steve Biko and Robert Sobukwe died for.
Last Friday Dos Santos posted a racially offensive tweet that read:
"Just, well took on an arrogant and disrespectful k***** inside Spar. Should have punched him, should have."
On Monday Thamana responded to Dos Santos on Twitter: "Dear Mr Peter Mokaba ... I wish All White People were killed when you said 'kill the boer' we wouldn't be experiencing @Jessica Leandra's racism right now**".
Both Dos Santos and Thamana have since fallen on their proverbial swords and apologised for their racist remarks.
Meanwhile, DA's Mmusi Maimane - who is in a mixed-race relationship - has hosted the two women to a "reconciliation session" at his house.
While Maimane's initiative is commendable it is important that people who make such racist remarks should be made to understand that their behaviour is not only unconstitutional but also criminal.
Given the history of this country, the word kaffir is hurtful and dehumanising.
It goes against the grain of what many South Africans have shed their blood for in their fight against apartheid, racism and human subjugation.
What Thamana has said amounts to hate speech, something that has no place in a country that is in the throes of ridding itself of any vestige of a system that was declared a "heresy" by the international community.
Our constitution is regarded as a model for any society seeking to rid itself of inequality and racism. We also have laws in place to attest to this.
The irony of it all is that we actually do not take seriously the acts by those who seek to undermine this noble document that we have offered the world.
We have so far been very limp-wristed when it comes to dealing with those who committed crimes that negate our Constitution.
It is time we learn from other societies where crimes like hate speech and racism are being taken seriously.
The recent case in the UK, in which 21-year-old Liam Stacy received a jail sentence for posting a racist tweet about Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice Muamba, is a case in point.
Stacy mocked Muamba after the 23-year-old player collapsed during an FA Cup game with Tottenheim Hotspur.