Black-on-black use of k-word: Two other cases could affect verdict
Case law emerging from two racism cases could be used in landmark legal row between two black business bigwigs
The delay in a landmark court case that could determine whether black people can be criminally charged for using the k-word as an insult, could allow two other related court rulings to be heard that could affect the closing arguments of both the state and the defence.
Businessman Peter-Paul Ngwenya is facing charges of crimen injuria in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court for allegedly calling Investec chief executive Fani Titi the k-word and a “Bantustan boss” in a text message. The pair have been at loggerheads after Ngwenya claimed that a business deal went sour and that he is owed R54m.
In the text message conversation between Ngwenya, Titi and managing director of MRC Media Aqeel Patel, Ngwenya also said that they “will bleed”. He also wrote that Titi would “see his mother” who had died, and has thus led Titi to believe this was a threat to his life.
While the same court – even the same magistrate, Pravina Rugoonandan – has ruled in the past that the use of the k-word against black people is an infringement of their dignity, and is therefore prosecutable, the state has acknowledged that this case is more complex because both parties are black.
On Wednesday morning, both sides were meant to put forward their closing arguments. However, prosecutor Yusuf Baba told the court that he and the defence had only received transcripts of the previous proceedings on Monday and that, because of the complex nature of the matter, both sides needed further time to put together their written heads of argument.
While the court agreed to a two-month postponement, in the next few days two other cases involving alleged racism and hate speech could come to an end, meaning they could potentially be used as case law in the Titi-Ngwenya matter.
Two men accused of hate speech, Phumlani Mfeka and Zweli Sangweni, former leaders of the Mazibuye African Forum, have been taken to the Durban Equality Court for their alleged comments about Indian people and calling Mahatma Gandhi a racist.
Mfeka reportedly told journalists after court proceedings in December: “Indians are the main employer in the region, that is true. The fact that the main perpetrators of physical abuse, sexual violations in the workplace are the employers of Indian origin, that is true. The fact that the people who dominate the economy of this region are Indians is true, so we stand by our statements.”
This case, brought by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the SA Human Rights Commission, is seeking to have the pair’s utterances declared hate speech and for them to be fined R50,000, to be donated to a KZN orphanage.
However, in their own arguments, the pair deny any wrongdoing, saying that even after the forum made alleged anti-Indian statements, there had been no increase in violence against that racial group. They also argue that there is still an ongoing debate about whether Gandhi was indeed racist.
A judgment in the matter was expected in April.
Momberg makes a move
Meanwhile, the first woman to be given a prison sentence for a charge of crimen injuria, Vicki Momberg, is returning to court next week to appeal her conviction and effective two-year prison sentence.
She was found guilty of crimen injuria for using the k-word more than 40 times against police officers trying to help her after a smash-and-grab incident.
She argued that she was in such a state of panic following the crime, that she had no control of her actions – a defence known to the court as sane automatism.
However, Rugoonandan ultimately did not believe such a defence and found Momberg guilty and imposed a prison sentence, which she has served.
Momberg has taken the decision to the High Court in Gauteng to try and overturn it, but it is unclear what new arguments she will bring.