Unlike in the United States where going on racist rants against current and past presidents only damages your reputation, in South Africa, it can land you in hot water with the law.
Kessie Nair, a former councilor and convicted con artist, has been arrested over a racist rant against the country’s new president Cyril Ramaphosa on social media.
In the online video, Nair — who is of Indian origin — twice uses the word “kaffir” to describe Ramaphosa. The word is the equivalent of the “n-word” in the United States.
Nair goes on to say that Ramaphosa should be “charged for defrauding this nation‚ for oppressing this nation‚ for high treason‚ for being the source to all crime and violence and poor health care and poverty in this so-called true democracy.”
Nearly a quarter-century since the official end to apartheid, racism remains a major issue in South Africa. Nair was arrested Wednesday and charged with inciting violence and crimen injuria.
Under South African Law, crimen injuria is the act of “unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another.” It is used in the prosecution of such acts as road rage, stalking, racially offensive language, emotional abuse, and child molestation.
Nair’s family said he had mental health issues, and needed urgent medical care.
Ramaphosa became president in February after former president Jacob Zuma was forced to resign over corruption allegations. The African National Congress condemned the video as “scurrilous”, and told South Africa’s TimesLive that Nair should face the “harshest punishment”.
“His tirade against the president demonstrates delusional and attention-seeking behavior,” Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Khusela Diko, said. He added that Nair is “clearly a sick person and his racist rant is not deserving of any airtime.”
Ironically, Nair’s uncle, Billy Nair, served 20 years in prison for fighting against apartheid.
“We have a history of being in the trenches fighting apartheid and being involved in the struggle for the liberation of this country from the shackles of the [white] nationalist government‚” his brother Krishnan Nair said, adding that he thinks his brother “needs immediate medical care and attention”.
Much like his American counterparts, Nair claims that his use of a racial slur doesn’t mean that he is racist.
“I don’t think I’m being racist,” he said. “I want to make a point‚ which I did. I am prepared to face the consequences. If the nation feels I was wrong‚ I will accept.”