Durban Racism Case: Diwali Facebook ranter sentenced for racist comments
A 59-year-old Durbanite, Dawie Kriel, was sentenced to a $460 fine or 12 months imprisonment, suspended for five years, by the Durban Magistrate Court. He was sentenced for his racist Facebook post during Diwali last year, making "hurtful" and "humiliating" comments that "stereotyped the Hindu faith." He had made the comments as he was angry and upset with the noise caused by fireworks.
Hindus in South Africa's Durban came under attack during Diwali for the use of fireworks, leading to noise-pollution. Durbanite Dawie Kriel found himself in the middle of a racist scandal after he expressed his anger over the fireworks and wrote an aggressive, offensive Facebook post. Hindus called for more tolerance towards their celebration; they were allowed to use fireworks from 7-10pm on 29-30 Oct'16.
Kriel started the post by saying it was the "same story every year." He posted, "Devil-worshippers and devil-disciples who buy (fireworks) in the name of religion, piss off back to your dark hole in the backwoods of India." He continued, "I could strangle you morons with my bare hands and derive great pleasure in watching your face turn blue and your tongue pop out."
The African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA) laid the charge against Kriel following closely the ANC's call to report such racist matters to Human Rights Commission and Equality Court. He was summoned to appear before Durban's Magistrate Court and also the Equality Court.
Kriel's sentence is suspended for five years on the basis that he doesn't commit similar crime in the next five years. Durban Magistrate Themba Sishi said sending Kriel to prison wouldn't serve any purpose as he was a first-time offender. Though Kriel posted an apology after a huge outcry over his previous posts, the Magistrate said he didn't show sufficient remorse for his actions.
Political parties, including ANC and DC, called the sentence "too lenient" and said, "Kriel had got away too lightly." ANC Regional Secretary Bheki Ntuli said the party had sought a jail term of at least a year. DA leader Zwakele Mncwango felt the fine didn't take into account the crime's severity. DA at least wanted a punitive community service to be imposed on Kriel.
"Comments made by Kriel are an attack on the foundation on which our democracy is based. Racism must be strongly condemned by government and courts. We are not happy with the fine."
South African Hindu Maha Sabha President Ashwin Trikamjee expected a "strong message" from the Magistrate that any type of racist behavior wouldn't be tolerated. He added, "The fine does appear to be a bit harsh, but it has been diluted by being suspended." Midlands Hindu Society President, Advocate Ranjiv Nirghan, earlier said Hindus were fed up with constantly coming under attack over Diwali.