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Zama Khumalo Issues a Public Apology for Facebook Comments

 February 2013


ATTENTION: Editors and Reporters

The South African Human Rights Commission facilitated and welcomed the public apology and withdrawal of all hurtful racial statements posted on social media by the young unemployed journalist Zama Khumalo.


On 24 January 2013, Khumalo posted a comment on his Facebook page relating to a school bus accident, which took place in the Westedene area of Johannesburg during 1985 where a number of school children tragically lost their lives.

In response to statements made by two different individuals with access to the Khumalo’s Facebook page, he made the following additional statement:
“On 27 March 2013, I will send out an invite to invite you to come to the Westedene Dam for a BIG Black Braai, (100% Blacks), fireworks, DJ – Black-People, celebrating their death.. and “we will always celebrate the death of whiteness”.

The Commission received thirteen complaints against Khumalo from 6th to 14th February 2013, for these comments made.


The Commission today headed a mediation session between Khumalo and some of the complainants following his racist remarks.


The meeting was attended by the legal representative of Media 24 Limited who are also the complainants in this matter, representatives from the Commission, including its CEO, and the respondent, Mr Khumalo.

The Commission explained the nature of the meeting to Khumalo and the other attendees and the mandate of the Commission in terms of its constitutional obligations.
Khumalo was guided through the form and nature of mediatory proceedings. He was advised that the meeting was not intended to be an adversarial hearing with the objective of determining or apportioning blame, but was instead aimed at reaching a consensus in line with principles of reconciliation, directed at understanding motives, perception, nation building and interests.

Khumalo was provided an opportunity to, among others, provide a background of the events which led up to the posting of his comments on Facebook, his personal experiences including the public response which it had elicited, to express his feelings of remorse and regret towards those affected.


This was with the aim to permit a process which encouraged constructive, responsible forward growth and understanding; to convey and confirm the relief sought by complainants; and to reach agreement regarding the terms to be included in a settlement agreement, finalised by the respective parties and made public through the Commission.

Khumalo expressed acute feelings of remorse and regret about the hurt caused to those affected, to Media 24 Limited and the general public.

In his words Khumalo said:
“I (Zama Khumalo) hereby tender my summary and unequivocal apology to the general public of South Africa, the Commission, each of the complainants and the individuals who were either directly or indirectly affected by the tragic Westedene bus accident including those families who lost loved ones. I acknowledge the hurt and pain that I have caused as a result of the comments made on Facebook, which were made in a state of anger and disappointment. I therefore truly and genuinely apologise for making such statements and I accept the terms of the agreement as more fully set out herein and also undertake from this date onwards to refrain from, by word and / or by deed, conducting myself in a manner associated with hate and hurtful speech or racism such as that contained in my previous comments.”

This statement was reciprocated by a statement from one of the complainants [Media 24] accepting the statement, events and sincerity of the apology.
On this basis agreement was reached regarding each term of the settlement process as encompassed in this agreement.


            TERMS OF SETTLEMENT

7.1.      On a consideration of the age of the respondent, remorse shown, other forms of relief suggested by the complainants, feedback from the complainants regarding the Commission’s recommendations and all other relevant factors, the following terms of have been agreed to:

7.1.1.   An undertaking for the adoption of the settlement agreement by the respondent;
7.1.2.   A public apology to form part of the Commission’s settlement as stated hereunder;
7.1.3.   A public apology specifically directed to the families of those who lost loved ones during the Westdene Bus Crash, to be posted on the following website: www.westdene1985.co.za;
7.1.4.   A public apology on the Facebook page of the respondent;
7.1.5.   The settlement agreement to be made public to the media and the complainants;
7.1.6.   That the respondent visits the website: www.westdene1985.co.za to take note of some of the photos and articles written about the accident to afford the respondent an opportunity to truly appreciate the trauma caused by the event; and
7.1.7.   An undertaking to participate in suitable diversity training programmes or educational workshops, as recommended by the Commission;
7.1.8.   That the respondent visits the Westpark Graveyard where many of the children who lost their lives were laid to rest to clean the graves and to place flowers at the tombstones, taking into account the following:
7.1.8.1.            The respondent has indicated his need for security during this visit, which the Media 24 representatives undertook to provide in conjunction with monitored support from the Commission.
7.1.9.   Further to the terms set out above and specifically requested by Media 24 Limited:
7.1.9.1.            That the respondent will not submit any articles / posts / articles / text in respect of Daily Sun, City Press, Sunday Sun or any other Media 24 Limited Publication on the respondent’s Facebook, Linkedin, Google, Twitter profiles or on any other websit, social media network or platform which would be considered unlawful in South Africa;
7.1.9.2.            That the respondent shall, at any stage of submitting articles / posts / articles / text on the respondent’s Facebook, Linkedin, Google, Twitter profiles or on any other website, social media network or platform, clearly state the period during which he was employed with Media 24 to avoid the impression that he is currently employed at Media 24 Limited;
7.1.9.3.            That the respondent must provide a written undertaking not to publish any further articles / posts / articles / text which are prohibited in South African law regarding the Westdene Dam Tragedy;
7.1.9.4.            That the respondent will ensure the removal of all posts and comments published by the respondent on his Facebook page (Zama Khumalo) which are unlawful in terms of South African law;
7.1.9.5.            That the respondent will ensure the removal of all unlawful posts and / or comments relating to Media 24 Limited;
7.1.9.6.            That the respondent will ensure that the public does not have access to any photographs through his Facebook, Linkedin, Google and / or Twitter profiles or on any other website or social media network or platform which indicate an employment relationship between the respondent and Media 24 Limited;
7.1.9.7.            That the respondent provides an unconditional apology to the family and loved ones of every victim of the Westdene Dam Tragedy (which can be done through the following website: www.westdene1985.co.za), the South African Public, Media 24, Daily Sun and City Press.
7.1.9.8.            That the apology from the respondent must be published in full on the respondent’s Facebook page and that related thereto:
7.1.9.8.1.         The respondent will continually monitor all comments made on his Facebook page relating to his apology and will remove all unlawful comments within a reasonable period of time after having been requested to do so by Media 24; and
7.1.9.8.2.         Media 24 has undertaken to monitor the Facebook page of the respondent for a reasonable time in the foreseeable future to ensure compliance herewith.
7.1.9.9.            That the respondent’s apology be made available to Media 24 Limited, to be published on its websites and be provided to SAPA, at its discretion together with a statement urging the South African public not to engage in further conduct of a similar nature;
7.1.9.10.          That the respondent attends a diversion / rehabilitation course regarding race relations in South Africa (as per the Commission’s proposals).
7.1.10. That subject to the above, the complainants agree to the following:
7.1.10.1.          To cease pursuit of all ongoing or intended legal action against the respondent, whether criminal or civil in nature;
7.1.10.2.          To regard this agreement as a final settlement of their complaints against the respondent and to desist from any further actions against him arising from the complaint.

The Commission will post the full agreement on to the website dedicated to the victims of the Westdene, www.westdene1985.co.za, and on our website www.sahrc.org.za.
Khumalo will as part of the settlement post a formal apology on to his facebook site.

The Commission has noted the increase in violations arising from the abuse of social media platforms and strongly urged the public to make a conscious effort toward eradicating racism.

END

Issued by:
Isaac Mangena
Head: Communications
SA Human Rights Commission
0718848273.

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