A South African court Friday fined a white estate agent $10,000 for comparing black beachgoers to monkeys in a Facebook post that sparked outrage over racist attitudes more than 20 years after apartheid ended.
A court in the southeastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province found Penny Sparrow guilty of “hate speech” and said the money would go to a charity that promotes cultural and heritage issues.
Sparrow complained about black people littering beaches in Durban during New Year’s celebrations.
Her comments sparked a storm of protest, prompting the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to approach an “equality court” — special tribunals set up to hear discrimination, harassment and hate speech cases.
“Her words convey the message both explicitly and implicitly to the reader that black people are not worthy of being described as human beings,” said magistrate Irfaan Khalil.
The court was told that Sparrow did not attend the hearing because she was sick and also feared for her safety.
The government welcomed the decision, with the Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa tweeting that the “ruling serves as a warning to those who perpetuate racism.”
Divisions along racial lines remain strong in South Africa 22 years after Nelson Mandela came to power vowing national reconciliation following the end of white-minority rule.
A white High Court judge was placed on special leave last month over Facebook remarks linking rape and black culture, in one of a series of social media controversies.