Zero tolerance for hate speech in real estate

Mar 29, 2018 | Local Property, Newsletter content

The issue of racism and hate speech has been brought to the fore again with former real estate agent Vicky Momberg making history as the first person in South Africa to be sent to jail for crimen injuria should her appeal fail.

Former estate agent Vicki Momberg was sentenced to an effective two years in prison by the Randburg Magistrate’s court on Wednesday 28 March after her racist rant in 2016 using the k-word 48 times on two 10111 call centre agents and a policeman assisting her after she was a victim of a smash and grab. A video of the incident went viral on social media afterwards. The same court previously found her guilty on four counts of crimen injuria.

Magistrate Pravina Raghoonandan gave Momberg the maximum permitted sentence of three years in prison, with one year suspended and told the court that Momberg’s racist rant would not be accommodated. What counted against Momberg was the number of times she used the k-word, that she was reportedly unrepentant in later conversations with probation officers, allegedly saying the k-word was only a swear word and her defiance against the Equality Court saying she would appeal against the court’s order that among others she pay R100 000 damages towards the police officer she insulted.

Momberg’s jail sentence has had a mixed reception with some such as the South African Human Rights Commission welcoming the firm stance taken towards racism and hate speech while others voiced criticism such as lobby group Afriforum who acknowledged Momberg’s actions should be condemned but questioned whether the same standards were being applied to black people that acted in a racist manner.
Property Professional spoke to Jan le Roux, CEO of Rebosa (Real Estate Business Owners of South Africa), who again emphasized that the real estate industry should have zero tolerance for all forms of discrimination, including any form of hate speech.

Le Roux encouraged all estate agents to sign Rebosa’s equality pledge and take a decisive stand against all forms of discrimination. “It is in the best interests of principals to insist on recruits signing the Pledge on joining.”

It is important to understand what behaviour could be considered as hate speech. John Gilchrist, Director of Property Law Publications explains it as follows:

“Hate speech is not confined to racial slurs but covers any form of insult or slander relating to a person’s race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability or gender. It covers such slurs in any form of public speeches, gestures, conduct, writing or any other form of communication where a person is disparaged personally or prejudicially in some way. In most countries that have hate speech laws it also covers slanders against any group of which any individual may be a member and be deemed to be included in the affront.”

The equality pledge was drawn up in 2016. The same year that another former estate agent the elderly Penny Sparrow pleaded guilty to crimen injuria following a New Year’s tweet by her where she called black people monkeys. She was fined R5 000 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment suspended for two years.

The equality pledge can be downloaded from here: http://www.rebosa.co.za/pledge/

IMAGE: Former estate agent Vicki Momberg will be the first person to be sent to jail for crimen injuria should her appeal fail.
Screen grab: Youtube