SAHRC successfully mediates in a social network racism dispute.
The South African Human Rights Commission has successfully facilitated a mediation, and reached an agreement between FW de Klerk Foundation and Mr Kemo Waters, a spiritual leader and founder of the Kemotheraphy Institute of Truth, over racial comments on Twitter attributed to Mr Waters.
On the 07th January 2012 the Commission received a complaint from FW de Klerk Foundation in house counsel, Jacques Du Preez against Mr Waters in which he alleges that Mr Waters' post on his twitter account amounted to hate speech and was racist.
Mr Waters is alleged to have tweeted that: "The only way to end racism is to kill a material number of whites @hellenzille your indifferent and patrionizing stance in a double dare."
The Commission in fulfilling its constitutional mandate of promoting and protecting human rights in the country is noting an increase in complaints relating to racism and social media. An investigation of the complaint was embarked on, to test the allegations and to ensure that appropriate redress could be provided where rights have been violated.
The Commission's investigation necessarily included a consideration of the international and domestic statutory frameworks designed to protect the right to equality and expression, relevant common law, prevailing social attitudes and norms and the facts of a particular matter.
During the mediation Mr Waters raised concerns around racist incidents he personally experienced since he had moved to the Western Capes which made him feel unwanted as a black man. Specific incidents cited included the experiences of his girlfriend a qualified medical doctor who in some instances had white patients who refused to be attended to by her on the basis of her race; and the bad service afforded to him and his friends at a restaurant in the Western Cape.
Mr Waters further advised the Commission that the comment made by him on Twitter was a summary of his thoughts and feelings around the issues of racism, particularly his feelings that some of the leadership in the province did not appear to be responding to issues being raised on the matter in the media at that time. He advised that on reflection he realized how the message would be interpreted and the impact this would have on society. In providing the context he stressed that the tweet was not in any way intended to constitute a call for violence.
On consideration of the constitutional and statutory prescripts, jurisprudence in matters involving hate speech, human dignity and particular facts of the complaint, SA Human Rights Commission was satisfied that the comments could be interpreted to amount to hate speech but that it needed to be viewed in context of Mr. Waters' experiences and perceptions at the time. The Commission was of the view that the matter presented an opportunity to deepen conversation around issues of racism and to promote an understanding of the reasons which motivate such conduct, its potential impact and the need to exercise rights responsibly.
The Commission noted that Mr Waters had prior to receipt of the complaint to it, already tendered a public apology during a radio show, and that the same apology had been posted on twitter, the social network site where the original comment forming the complaint had appeared.
At the conclusion of the mediatory discussion and upon being satisfied that Mr. Waters was able to appreciate the impact of the statements, alternative routes for engagements in such matters and the need to ensure that all parties recognize the need for a common commitment to our Constitutional vision, The Commission advised Mr Waters to consider tendering a formal written public apology through the Commission to all South Africans. In his apology Mr Water said:
"I, the respondent herein, hereby tender my summary and unequivocal apology to the public, the Commission, the FW de Klerk Foundation. The complainants and the individuals who were adversely affected and/or hurt or offended by the comments made by myself on Twitter in the manner described in this agreement. I accept the recommendations of the Commission herein and undertake from this date onwards to refrain from, by word and deed, conducting myself in a manner associated with hate and speech or racism in the form complained about".
The FW De Klerk Foundation accepted Mr Waters' apology and a mediation agreement was signed between Mr Waters and the Complainant in April 2013.
The Commission recommends that members of the public and the complainant to accept his apology.
Statement issued by Isaac Mangena, Head: Communications, SA Human Rights Commission, May 11 2013
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