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Racist insults still hate speech even if they are spoken in indigenous languages

Adam Catzavelos arriving at the Randburg magistrate's court on Tuesday over his racist rant.A video of the incident, in which he uses the k-word, went viral last year. /ALON SKUY
Adam Catzavelos arriving at the Randburg magistrate's court on Tuesday over his racist rant.A video of the incident, in which he uses the k-word, went viral last year. /ALON SKUY

With President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement of his cabinet, I was highly entertained by some of my colleagues reminding the South African public - ever so modestly! - how they'd predicted that the president would retain Pravin Gordhan and Tito Mboweni in their respective portfolios.

Unlike in America, eMzansi we can't just say: "I told ya! Thas right, niggas, I'm smarter than y'all."

Can you picture a person patting themselves on the back, shyly, behind closed doors? That's what local political commentators were behaving like this week.

Although I sometimes get mistaken for a political analyst - at which point my ego swells like a vetkoek made of self-raising flour - I actually don't play in that league. I simply watch and comment on everybody, including the political commentators themselves.

Commentators are supposed to be subtle, masters of obfuscation. Frankness is my middle name. It's taken me years to develop the confidence and chutzpah to say things as they are. Having been raised in a Christian family, bragging was frowned upon.

When somebody praised you on your excellent school results, you simply said, "Ngiyabonga. Hhayi, wukuzama nje." (Thank you. Ag, we're just trying).

Then I went to live in the United States, during which time I did a presentation at Harvard. When people praised me for my presentation and the books I'd published, I sheepishly shrugged my shoulders, and said, "Ag, I was just trying." One fellow shot to his feet and said: "Listen, don't be modest; you ain't famous."

He appeared almost angry.

That shook me to my moorings. I was later told that Americans frankly do not appreciate false modesty.

Today, I am saying: South Africans should not be modest. They have a great country. They have put back into power a president who has a vision. Now we need to support Ramaphosa. Let's make South Africa great!

Enough politicking. While our focus is on the big picture, we sometimes forget the smaller events that gradually develop into big, monstrous things.

Here I am referring to the stories of Angelo Agrizzi and Adam Catzavelos. Both men not so long ago raised the ire of the country when their racist fulminations were brought into the public domain.

It was during Agrizzi's testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture that a tape was played of him speaking at length about k*****s he was being forced to do business with.

Catzavelos was on holiday in Greece when he purred into his cellphone about beautiful beaches made even more enjoyable as there were no k*****s there.

On Tuesday, Catzavelos made his first appearance at the Randburg magistrate's court on crimen injuria charges. Agrizzi appeared at the Equality Court on Wednesday after the Human Rights Commission mounted legal proceedings against him.

I am glad that both cases have not been swept under the carpet. The resurgence of racist bile would be a tragedy.

Racist bile is not the preserve of white people. There are black people who make reprehensible racist remarks about white people and other races.

Sadly, these are usually made in our indigenous languages. Well, white people, don't say I didn't warn you: you do get insulted racially. At any rate, you've been here for more than 300 years, why can't you learn African languages?

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