Black skin is a licence to use K-word, says Sibusiso Peter-Paul Ngwenya
When is it OK to call a black person the K-word? Any time you like - as long as you're also black.
That's the view of former Robben Island prisoner Sibusiso Peter-Paul Ngwenya, now a leading entrepreneur.
But Ngwenya has found himself on the wrong side of a crimen injuria case after using the racial slur against his former friend and business partner Fani Titi, the joint CEO of Investec.
While Titi told the Sunday Times this week he did not want to comment on the case, Ngwenya said the charge was "frustrating" because he did not believe he had infringed Titi's dignity, as prosecutors allege.
"I am also a k*****. So I couldn't have been racist towards him because if you could think of the N-word in America, which is the equivalent, n*****s call themselves n*****s," he said.
Ngwenya, who spent almost five years on Robben Island, is facing two counts of contravening a protection order Titi was granted against him and one count of crimen injuria for calling Titi a "k****r" in an SMS.
The crimen injuria case was postponed in the Randburg magistrate's court this week and closing arguments are due to start when the case resumes in May.
Titi has told the court that the messages from Ngwenya amounted to threats to his person.
"It is extremely egregious for someone to call you a k*****. The words portrayed the level of danger that someone of his stature could descend to," Titi said.
Ngwenya, who fell out with Titi over a business deal, called Titi a "QwaQwa k*****" and a "Bantustan boss" in one text message and told him he would "see his mother", which, because his mother had died, Titi interpreted as a threat to kill him.
In the same message, according to the indictment, Ngwenya told Aqeel Patel, MD of MRC Media, that he would "bleed".
Ngwenya and Titi fell out over a R54m deal involving the sale of assets at their FM radio stations, Kaya, Gagasi and Heart. The pair first bought shares in the three stations in 2008 for an estimated R48.8m.
As part of the row, Ngwenya has also accused Titi of business practices that have "benefited minorities".
He told the Sunday Times: "I am accusing Mr Titi of entering into an arrangement with me to buy these radio assets. As it turns out, he manages to . not only reverse those gains . but also [to benefit] two of his friends, who are both minorities, these are both Indian fellows.
"He is betraying the very thing that he has benefited from, that of BEE policies... He is co-operating in disempowering me."
Ngwenya, whose career as a business executive has included serving as chair of SA Airlink and NAC Makana, and as a director of Alumicor SA Holdings, does not deny sending the messages or using the K-word.
"This word, it's generally used among Africans, among themselves. When it's used it's not in the same manner as racist whites, who are the people who imposed this word [on] us. It is usually to describe the conduct."
He said he had made this same argument in court as part of his defence and no-one had challenged it.
Titi and Ngwenya's business relationship and friendship stretched more than two decades and they were both invited to serve on the board at the Mail & Guardian in the mid-1990s.
Ngwenya said he had launched civil proceedings against Titi to get the money he claims is owed to him.
Meanwhile, the first South African to be given a prison sentence for crimen injuria, Vicki Momberg, is returning to court next week to appeal her conviction and effective two-year jail term.
She used the K-word more than 40 times against police officers.