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  • Written by  Mervyn Naidoo, http://www.iol.co.za/sunday-tribune
  • Published in In the News
  • Read 1349 times

Don’t let racists ruffle feathers - article in the Sunday Tribune

Khulumani responds to the Penny Sparrow racism matter in this article by Mervyn Naidoo in the Sunday Tribune.

“This is fundamentally in opposition to Khulumani’s position that all people are of equal worth and dignity, regardless of race, income or any other factors,” she said. As a form of censure for her post, Jobson suggested welcoming Sparrow to work with Khulumani to facilitate economic opportunities for members.


As the hawks swoop on Penny Sparrow’s “stupid” post, race relations experts urge us all to recommit to a rainbow nation ideal, writes Mervyn Naidoo.

While many South Africans and holidaymakers got into the spirit of things during the festive period, enjoying the country’s beaches and other attractions, they must have sobered up in a flash after Penny Sparrow flighted her infamous Facebook post.

The former Scottburgh estate agent’s racist jibe, released on January 2, has been trending on social media.

In her post, Sparrow referred to black beachgoers as “monkeys” after seeing the heaps of litter left behind on New Year’s Day.

A ruffled Sparrow had since “gone into hiding”, said her former boss, Avanti Low.

Apart from maverick socialite Gareth Cliff openly saying Sparrow’s chirp fell within the bounds of “freedom of expression”, she was widely criticised from a range of platforms.

Sello Hatang of the Nelson Mandela Foundation said it was “concerning that racism lurks deeply beneath the façade of South African society more than 20 years into our democracy, surfacing with little provocation”.

“This incident, and other recent reports of racism remind us that we are still defined by race. I cherish the day when we will be defined by being South African first. Every South African has to recommit to eradicate the scourge.”

Hatang called on South Africans to be circumspect in responding.

“The discontent is justified, but the levels of anger must be measured as we are all trying to help build South Africa into a country of our dreams, free of racial and other forms of discrimination.

“We should not apportion blame to all white people for views held by a few. We should not blame any race for such incidents. That is dangerous and entrenches prejudiced views.

“The issues are complex, rooted in our society. It is a collective problem with individual responsibility to address. We have to work together to move away from the culture of exclusive racial identities and discriminatory practices.”

Marjorie Jobson, national director of the Joburg-based Khulumani Support Group, an organisation with about 85 000 victims and survivors of apartheid-related human rights violations, also weighed in on Sparrow’s comments.

She said they reflected an attitude towards black people that was denigrating and Sparrow’s clarification that she helped many people, who were worse off than she was, reflected an unconscious attitude of superiority.

“This is fundamentally in opposition to Khulumani’s position that all people are of equal worth and dignity, regardless of race, income or any other factors,” she said.

As a form of censure for her post, Jobson suggested welcoming Sparrow to work with Khulumani to facilitate economic opportunities for members.

David Steward, executive director at the FW de Klerk Foundation, asked that Sparrow apologise unreservedly for her “stupid and hurtful” comment.

He also recommended that South Africans see each other for who they are and not in terms of skin colour.

“This sort of behaviour fuels the negative stereotypes held by some white South Africans. Stereotyping must stop.”

The South African Institute of Race Relations called for a more stringent censure of Sparrow, as well as against Velaphi Khumalo, an employee of the Gauteng Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation Department who suggested on Facebook that black South Africans do to white people what “Hitler did to the Jews”. He has since been suspended by his department.

The institute’s Mienke Steytler said: “Our organisation condemns racism and discrimination and agrees that perpetrators such as Sparrow and Khumalo should be taken to task for their utterances.”

Steytler said neither post met the constitutional requirements for freedom of expression.

“Freedom of expression does not extend to propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence, or the advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and which constitutes incitement to cause harm.”

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