It's worse to call a white man the K-word, court rules

27 May 2018 - 00:04 By KARYN MAUGHAN
A magistrate in a court ruling said 'a white man would feel even more degraded to be seen as qualifying to be addressed as a k****r'.
A magistrate in a court ruling said 'a white man would feel even more degraded to be seen as qualifying to be addressed as a k****r'.
Image: iStock

A Germiston magistrate has come under fire for finding that calling a white man the K-word is even more degrading than using it to describe a black man.

"Use of this word disparages the black race," magistrate Dipuo Mputla stated. "In my view a white man would feel even more degraded to be seen as qualifying to be addressed as such, and that will injure his dignity more."

The magistrate made these findings in a landmark ruling in which she convicted retired Lieutenant-Colonel Johannes Kemp of crimen injuria for calling businessman Mark Maitland the K-word - in the presence of two black police officers.

The incident happened a decade ago, but the NPA declined to press charges against Kemp. Maitland then applied to bring a private prosecution and - represented by former NPA acting head Mokotedi Mpshe - successfully sought Kemp's conviction.

Kemp, then a member of the Pretoria organised crime unit, had raided Maitland's Bedfordview home in 2008 on the grounds that he was allegedly receiving and housing stolen property. The charges were later withdrawn, and Maitland paid a fine for being in possession of foreign currency.

During the raid, Kemp took Maitland to his bank and made him hand over the contents of his safety deposit boxes, which included sex tapes of himself and his fiancée.

Kemp said he watched these tapes - in the presence of Maitland's tearful fiancée, and later Maitland - in the belief that they might be linked to a spate of robberies.

After viewing the tapes, Kemp told Maitland, in front of two black officers: "Yo! Die seek****r kan naai, jong! [Wow! This sea k****r can f**k, man!] Seek****r is a derogatory term for a person of Greek origin.

According to now retired warrant officer Lesiba Samuel Moropa, Maitland turned red when Kemp said these words, and he asked Maitland if he understood Afrikaans. He said Maitland was visibly emotional.

The evidence given by Moropa and his fellow warrant officer, Peter Sekhudu, was crucial to the finding that Kemp had used the K-word.

During his testimony, Kemp admitted that he had used the K-word before, but denied doing so in reference to Maitland. He also suggested that, even if he had used the word, he did not do so with the intention of impairing Maitland's dignity.

Mputla responded to that argument in her ruling: "It was the accused's argument further that should the court make a finding that the words uttered constituted crimen injuria, the court should have regard to the fact that [Maitland] is not a black man and cannot possibly be injured by the word k****r since he is not black.

Referring to a white man as k****r could be even more injurious since the word is commonly used in reference to black people
Magistrate Dipuo Mputla

"The converse in my view should also stand true, that referring to a white man as k****r could be even more injurious since the word is commonly used in reference to black people."

In her view, a white man referred to as a k****r "would feel even more degraded".

The Human Rights Commission has expressed profound disquiet about this rationale. In an e-mail to Maitland, the commission's Kelly-Anne Cleophas says it regards "the reasoning of the magistrate in your matter to be highly problematic, especially the reasoning relating to the use and impact of the K-word. The commission will consider reporting the judgment to the Magistrates Commission to investigate." 

Maitland has confirmed to the Sunday Times that his legal team will argue that Kemp should be jailed for his use of the K-word. Kemp was also convicted of violating the Criminal Procedure Act by not adhering to the terms of the search warrant used to raid Maitland's home.

"We need to set a precedent here, and send a message to the remaining racist police out there," Maitland said. "There are good police out there and the two officers who testified for me showed real bravery. But the officers who are racist and abuse their power need to know there will be consequences."

Kemp's attorney, Oelof de Meyer, declined to say if his client would appeal against the rulings, as he had yet to be sentenced.


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