An estate agent from Durban, South Africa, was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for calling a black policeman a “kaffir”, the equivalent of the American “nigger”. Vicki Momberg, who is white, had just been robbed by blacks in Johannesburg during a “smash-and-grab” incident in her vehicle when she refused to be assisted by black police officers, suggesting that they were incompetent and “useless”.
One year of her prison sentence was suspended for three years, meaning that Momberg will serve two years for her “speech crime”. However, after being pronounced guilty of crimen injuria, an old-fashioned form of criminal libel in South Africa, Momberg was led to the court cells and spent her first night behind bars in Soweto’s notorious all-black prison for hardened criminals, nick-named “Sun City”, after the casino resort.
Crimen injuria is a common-law crime in South Africa that is defined as “unlawfully, intentonally and seriously impairing the dignity of another”. Although it fell by the wayside in modern times, it has been used in recent years by South Africa’s ANC regime to persecute whites suspected of a “racist” attitude. But even harsher legislation is currently being instituted in the form of “The Prevention and combating of Hate Crime and Hate Speech Bill”. The new legislation will curtail freedom of speech even further and make it easier to prosecute whites rebelling against black authority.
During her altercation with police while reporting the attack on her, Momberg used the word “kaffir” 48 times, according to court documents. A cellphone video of the incident was made and widely distributed on social media in the country.
South Africa’s mainstream media were ecstatic in welcoming Momberg’s prison sentence. The Star newspaper in Johannesburg carried the headline “Victory over racism” (see picture above). Adriaan Basson, the editor of News24.com, the country’s largest online news portal, entitled his hit piece against Momberg, “Nowhere to hide for racists like Vicki Momberg anymore”. According to Basson, “It is the first time (that I am aware of) that someone will be imprisoned for using racist language in our country’s history.”
A poll by the public broadcaster, the SABC, found that 57% of its TV viewers were in favour of a still harsher sentence of “more than five years’ imprisonment” for Vicki Momberg.
South Africa’s main opposition party, the liberal DA (Democratic Alliance), welcomed the prison sentence, stating, “We trust this ruling will be a deterrent to those who harbour any racist sentiments.”
However, another liberal-Marxist commentator, Rebecca Davis, expressed some concern over the chilling effect the sentence might have on freedom of speech in South Africa. Writing on The Daily Maverick website, she said:
“It has been reported that the case is the first in South Africa in which a person found guilty only of crimen injuria has been sentenced to prison. Daily Maverick has been unable to confirm this, but it does appear to be the first racism case in which the offender will serve time behind bars for words rather than actions. The freedom of expression implications of this will need to be teased out by legal experts.”
In June 2017, Momberg was fined R100 000 by the Equality Court, an amount she had to pay to the black policeman, Constable David Mkhondo, she had offended. However, proceedings in South Africa’s Equality Courts take place under civil, not criminal law, unlike the charge of crimen injuria.
In effect, Momberg had to pay both civil damages and go to prison for using the word “kaffir”.
Although the court was told that Momberg had previously refused to be served by black policemen in Durban more than a decade ago, she had never been convicted of an offence before. Legally, she was therefore a first offender, and would under normal conditions have qualified for a lighter, suspended sentence, a fine, or both.
A South African lawyer, advocate Albert Murphy, characterised the sentence as “disproportionate”. In a tweet he said:
“In my view the Momberg judgment is disproportionate and obviously politically inspired. What she did was wrong but certainly did not justify a prison sentence. White people are daily subjected to vile and murderous comments and songs from public platforms and no action is taken?”
Momberg’s case contrasts vividly with that of Velaphi Khumalo, an ANC member and official of the provincial arts and culture department in the Gauteng Province. He wrote on his Facebook that “white people in South Africa deserve to be hacked and killed like Jews”.
After a public outcry, Khumalo was finally charged by the Human Rights Commission with “hate speech”. Unlike Vicki Momberg who did not advocate the killing of anyone, but merely used an offensive word, Khumalo did in fact calling for white genocide. However, to date he has not only kept his job as a state or provincial official, but his “prosecution” by the Human Rights Commission has also been extremely protracted and without any visible result.