Angry Hindus are demanding the courts send out a strong message to South Africans that the days of making racist comments and apologising are over.
Ashwin Trikamjee‚ head of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha – a body that represents the interests of the local Hindu community – was at the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday for the crimen injuria case against Bluff pensioner Dawie Kriel.
Kriel‚ who deeply offended Hindus by describing them as “idol worshippers” on Facebook last year‚ was charged after political parties laid complaints with police.
The case was postponed after Kriel parted ways with his legal aid representative and appointed a new attorney shortly before he was expected to plead.
The scruffy pensioner – dressed in a jersey‚ casual pants and takkies – had a lone supporter‚ who claimed to be a “family member”.
The matter was adjourned to January 27 to allow the defence to prepare a plea statement.
Kriel’s post related to fireworks over the Hindu festival of Diwali last year‚ which prompted him to threaten to “strangle you morons … watching your face turn blue and your tongue pop out”.
He later made a public apology.
Trikamjee said the post had garnered “a volatile reaction from the Hindu community.
“The Maha Sabha received innumerable complaints demanding that we take some kind of action. Of course we approached the police and joined the ANC and DA in lodging the complaint.
“I expected the matter to be finalised but I understand that he’s got a new attorney.
“As far as the sentence is concerned it would be improper of me to indicate what is going to happen. But what we are looking for is some kind of sentence that is going to send out a message to the entire South African community that the days of making racist comments and saying sorry are over‚” said Trikamjee.
The courtroom was divided along political party lines as both ANC and DA supporters filled the public gallery and later held placard demonstrations outside the courthouse amid a heavy police presence.
ANC provincial spokesman Mdu Ntuli said the party was “very disappointed “about the postponement.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. It would be good if Kriel is sentenced to a jail term. We need the courts to send out a strong message that racism is not tolerated.”
DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango said: “We respect the laws of the country. Kriel has the right to change his lawyer.
“We need some kind of signal to be sent out to South Africans that there is no space for racism.”
– TMG Digital/Sunday Times