EFF councillor in court over racist 'Tracy Zille' tweets

Anthony Matumba 'was generating an income from making disparaging and inflammatory comments online', says SAHRC

27 July 2021 - 13:18
By naledi shange AND Naledi Shange
The EFF's Anthony Matumba is set to appear before the Equality Court on Tuesday for comments he is alleged to have made using the @TracyZille Twitter account.
Image: Facebook / Anthony Matumba The EFF's Anthony Matumba is set to appear before the Equality Court on Tuesday for comments he is alleged to have made using the @TracyZille Twitter account.

The Equality Court in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo, on Tuesday began hearing the case against EFF councillor Anthony Matumba, who is alleged to have been behind a fake Twitter account used to spread disparaging, racist and harassing comments towards black women.

The matter is set down for the next three days.

The case against Matumba was brought by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) after it received complaints from a member of the public about comments made by someone using the alias @TracyZille on Twitter.

The Twitter handle emerged in June 2020 and had more than 30,000 followers when it was brought to the attention of the SAHRC. The account caused a storm after it posted tweets about the difference between white and black cultures. Other tweets pretended to offer “advice” from white people to other races.   

“From a closer inspection, and after an expose in the media, it was reported the Tracy Zille account was, in fact, run by Anthony Matumba, a councillor from the Makhado municipality,” the SAHRC said.

“It was further reported that Mr Matumba was generating an income from making these disparaging and inflammatory comments online through companies he owned and registered to which social media users were directed.”

The Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), which had pointed the finger at Matumba last year, said he has registered multiple websites in his name, which he monetised using Google’s AdSense.

“To drive traffic to these sites and increase the ad revenue they generated, several Twitter accounts spammed links to the websites, mostly in reply to prominent Twitter personalities,” DFRLab said.

It said it had collected 104 tweets from @TracyZille between June 29 and July 4 last year. A total of 61 tweets were linked to the websites whatsappgroup.co.za, search67.com and jobsfinder.co.za.

As the matter finally makes its way to court, the SAHRC said it wants the court to declare comments made by Matumba as harassment based on gender and race, and for him to pay damages

“The SAHRC is of the view that no individual may use the hurtful history of this country to leverage an income for him or herself.

“The SAHRC condemns any form of action which deliberately contradicts our mandate of reconciliation and nation building, and is confident the court will send a strong message to the faceless individuals on social media who attempt to abuse these platform in stark contradiction of the aims of the Equality Act.”