The ANC have officially laid criminal charges against Afrikaans musician Steve Hofmeyr after the controversial figure got himself in trouble for Tweeting death threats towards two prominent politicians.
Both Zindzi Mandela and Phumzile van Damme found themselves in the public eye, following two separate incidents last week. Mandela, the South African Ambassador to Denmark, went on a Twitter rant about the pace of land expropriation in the country. Meanwhile, van Damme was subjected to racist abuse at the V&A Waterfront.
Our national spokesperson @pulemabe and our legal advisor Cde krish Naidoo now giving statement to the @SAPoliceService in central JHB. #stevehofmeyr issued death threats against RSA's Ambassador to Denmark, Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane and DA MP Phumzile Van Damme. pic.twitter.com/Md7LHYU3c7
— African National Congress (@MYANC) June 24, 2019
ANC lay charges over “death threats”
Both incidents dominated the national discourse, and it wasn’t long before Steve Hofmeyr decided to run his mouth on the wide-reaching platform. This was his less-than-subtle expression of frustration:
“Dear Zindzi Mandela and Phumzile van Damme: I’m a South African tax-paying citizen. Effectively, I am your boss. You will jump when I say so and you will ask how high. And when you come to take our lives and land, you will die. Our contract is that simple. And don’t you forget it.”
ANC vs Steve Hofmeyr
The ugly sentiments alerted the ANC, who responded a day later. Initially planning to lay charges last week, the rescheduled for Monday. Through a statement issued on Monday, the party labelled his comments as those of a “white supremacist”, and blasted the “barbaric” nature of his death threats.
Meanwhile, Steve Hofmeyr doesn’t seem to be showing much in the way of restraint. The singer has again Tweeted about the issue on Monday, putting a sarcastic slant on the situation:
I'd like to reverse my tweet for the sake of transformation and unity: "Dear public servants. I serve you and when you say jump I shall ask how high. And when you come to take my land and kill my family I shall give you free access to my home. I promise."
— Steve Hofmeyr (@steve_hofmeyr) June 24, 2019
What charges is Steve Hofmeyr facing?
The ANC will be bringing a case of crimen injuria against him. According to SAPS, this consists of “unlawfully and intentionally impairing the dignity or privacy of another person.” This particular offence is deeply-rooted in crimes of a racist nature – an angle which the political party feel is very prevalent to this incident.
What will happen next
It’s in the hands of the authorities to decide where we go from here. Should the case be pursued further, Hofmeyr and the ANC will likely face-off in court if the authorities decide to charge him- something which promises to be blockbuster entertainment.
Can Steve Hofmeyr be jailed for his Tweet?
For his Tweet alone, the answer looks more like a “no” than a “yes”. But there is still room for interpretation: If the ANC can prove there was a racial element to his post, then we have a very famous precedent in place for Steve. Vicki Momberg became the first person to be jailed for crimen injuria, following her K-word rant in 2016.
Factors that went against Momberg, in that case, include her lack of repentance. Hofmeyr has certainly not been apologetic – as we saw from his Tweet earlier – but there are more “grey areas” to contend with here – this isn’t exactly as blunt as repeating a racial slur 48 times in one go.
As South Africa’s common law dictates, a guilty judgement for crimen injuria may result in a first offender being sentenced to a fine and a suspended sentence for a period on condition that the offender does not re-offend.
A contempt of a court order, or re-offending, may result in imprisonment. So if Steve Hofmeyr was initially spared jail, then made a similar threat again, that could eventually put him behind bars. It’s also worth noting that a person found guilty of crimen injuria will, once convicted, maintain a criminal record.