K-word ‘is only hurtful when used by a white person’
Fani Titi can't claim the word is racially abusing him, laywers for fellow black businessman Peter-Paul Ngwenya argue
The k-word is only hurtful when it is said by a white person to a black person.
That was the argument from the counsel representing politically connected businessman Peter-Paul Ngwenya in court on Thursday, as part of a contentious case where another black businessman, Fani Titi, accused Ngwenya of using the k-word in a text message.
Ngwenya, who spent almost five years on Robben Island, is facing charges of contravening a protection order and of crimen injuria. He and Titi, the Investec chairperson, were longtime friends.
The conflict between Ngwenya and Titi stems from a business deal that turned sour. The friends fell out when Ngwenya allegedly called Free State-born Titi a “QwaQwa k****r” and a “Bantustan boss” in an SMS that was intended for MRC Media managing director Aqeel Patel.
In the same message, Ngwenya told Patel: “You will bleed,” and said Titi would “see his mother”, a comment Titi regards as a threat to his life.
Ngwenya claims Titi owes him nearly R54m.
Ngwenya’s counsel, advocate Nqabayethu Buthelezi, argued during closing arguments on Thursday that the k-word was only used to describe Titi’s conduct and not to impair his dignity.
Buthelezi also argued that the k-word only became offensive when said by a white person to a black person.
“The word carries a peculiar sting when used by white people. He [Titi] can’t claim that the word is racially abusing him,” argued Buthelezi. “Titi’s claim to impairment of dignity dismally fails to satisfy the hurdles required to prove impairment of dignity in law.”
The defence argued that, until now, Titi had not opened a case of crimen injuria against Ngwenya and that it was the state that opened the case on his behalf.
“We are at the final stage of this trial without a case number for the reported crime, a witness statement where Titi alleges to have his dignity impaired, and there is no other evidence, outside of what Titi stated in his evidence, which can rightfully and convincingly lead the court to the conclusion that Titi’s dignity was impaired.
“In light of all the legal action he took against the accused [Ngwenya], the one thing he didn’t do was lay a charge of crimen injuria … for the impairment of his dignity.
“This evidence by Titi and that of the accused clearly show that despite the offensive words being said to Titi, the accused lacked the intent to impair Titi’s dignity,” he said.
Buthelezi said the evidence led by the state had failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Ngwenya had the intent to impair Titi’s dignity.
The state had “failed to discharge the onus to prove the guilty on all charges”.
“The accused stands to be acquitted accordingly,” said Buthelezi.
The closing argument came the day after prosecutor Yusuf Baba argued that Ngwenya had in fact “clearly” used the k-word to insult and dehumanise Titi.
“The use of the word … was clearly experienced by Titi to be extremely injurious,” Baba had argued.
He told the court that it was “unimaginable” that Ngwenya thought it was morally acceptable for people of the same race to call each other “k****r”.
Baba closed the state’s case on Wednesday.
In his address on Thursday, Buthelezi also argued that Ngwenya had not referred to Patel and Titi as dogs when he went to the MRC Media offices to demand his money.
“The accused denies emphatically that he uttered the words that he ‘would kill these dogs’. It’s a concoction,” said Buthelezi.
He said Ngwenya could not have used those words when a protection order prohibited him from threatening Titi and Patel.
“The accused was conscious to the prohibitions of the protection order. Thus there is no escaping the conclusion that the alleged threats are a fabrication that was designed to get the accused arrested as part of the bigger existing fallout between the parties,” Buthelezi argued.
Judgment will be handed down on July 11.