Dawie Kriel, 59, was sentenced by the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday for his racist comments on social media around Diwali last year. (Reuters)A man in South Africa was handed down a fine of USD 460 or 12 months in prison suspended for five years for making “hurtful” and “humiliating” comments which “stereotyped the Hindu fate” during Diwali. Dawie Kriel, 59, was sentenced by the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday for his racist comments on social media around Diwali last year. He made the comments as he was upset with the noise created by fireworks.
“To those devil worshippers and devil disciples who buy (fireworks) in the name of religion, p**s off back to your dark hole in the backwoods of India… I could strangle you morons with my bare hands and derive great pleasure in watching your face turn blue and your tongue pop out,” Kriel had written in a Facebook post.
Magistrate Themba Sishi, who sentenced him to a 6,000 rand (about USD 460) fine or 12 months imprisonment suspended for five years on the basis that he does not commit a similar crime for the next five years, said “Kriel’s comments were hurtful, humiliating, and stereotyped the Hindu fate”. The magistrate said that sending him to prison would serve no purpose as he was a first-time offender.
Even though Kriel had posted an apology after a huge outcry over his initial posts, Sishi said he had not shown sufficient remorse for his action. Meanwhile, political parties termed the sentence “too lenient”, with the majority African National Congress (ANC) and the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), in a rare show of agreement, said “Kriel had got away too lightly”.
The judgement prompted ANC regional secretary Bheki Ntuli to question the light sentence. He said his party had sought a jail term of at least a year.
“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,” Ntuli told reporters.
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DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango said the fine did not take into account the severity of the crime.
The DA, which had brought the criminal charge against Kriel together with the ANC, said it had wanted the magistrate to at least impose punitive community service on Kriel.
South African Hindu Maha Sabha President Ashwin Trikamjee said he had expected a sentence that would send out a strong message to society that the type of racist behaviour shown by Kriel would not be tolerated.
“The fine does appear to be a bit harsh, but it has been diluted by being suspended,” Trikamjee said.