Race row erupts on Facebook over singer’s comments

Afrikaans singer and celebrity Steve Hofmeyr has “sparked a racial storm” on his sizeable Facebook Page, reports the Times today. The singer’s anger and outrage over recent farm murders of a white couple and their three-year old child spilled over onto Facebook to his 89 000 fans this weekend.

This is not the first time that Hofmeyr has lashed out using Facebook as a channel — and his status updates continue to walk a fine line between justifiable anger and hate speech.

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Hofmeyer’s use of Facebook raises interesting questions around freedom of expression. On the one hand, a Facebook page is a public platform that anyone can see, read and interact with. On the other hand it is a personal, intimate record of how a person is feeling at a specific moment in time. People in the public eye are required to balance the two competing forces every time they engage with their fans using social media.

Writing in Afrikaans, Hofmeyr lashed out at a culture he believes provides a justification for young men to commit brutal murder. “We MUST generalise,” said Hofmeyr, “most black people I know are not violent but they slurp up the propaganda of entitlement, which gives young killers what they need to justify their brutality.”

The farming community in South Africa is outraged and furious over the latest farm murders which took place in Tweefontein in the Free State. The Potgieters were attacked on their farm on Wednesday. Wilna Potgieter and her three-year old daughter were shot execution-style, while her husband was hacked to death with a panga.

In recent months, Steve Hofmeyr has become more than just an entertainer. The outspoken personality has used Facebook and his blog to represent a segment of the white Afrikaans community who feel marginalised and voiceless.

When Hofmeyr posted an update that read “I don’t know how the world thinks we should transform, integrate and let go of our prejudices and stay nice, tolerant Christians when blacks can shoot a three-year-old child in the head”, over 800 comments and 2000 likes followed, ranging from the thoughtful and measured to the racist and hateful.

By Monday morning, Hofmeyr’s anger appears to have abated. He wrote that Lindley (the area where the murders took place) is in his thoughts and invited people to join him in a visit to the abused women and children at the Cradle of Hope in Krugersdorp.

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