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Prominent tech ed Duncan McLeod caught up in racist social media row, charges laid [Update]

  • Crimen injuria charges laid against tech journalist over social media racism saga involving Chris Hart, Penny Sparrow
  • McLeod had defended Hart’s tweets on the basis of free speech
  • “I find it highly objectionable that I’m being lumped with vile racists” says McLeod
  • Tech journo dismisses charges as “spurious”, will not take up legal representation

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TechCentral founder and publisher Duncan McLeod has reportedly had crimen injuria charges laid against him following remarks he made on social media.

The charges laid against McLeod were also leveled against the likes of Penny Sparrow, Chris Hart, and Justin Van Vuuren — all of whom have come under fire in the past few days for racist social media posts.

Laid by a group of prominent black South Africans including activist Shaka Sisulu, businessman Sibusiso Leope, ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa, former CEO of GCIS Mzwanele ‘Jimmy’ Manyi and lawyer Siphile Buthelezi.

The charges against McLeod most likely relate to his defence of tweets sent out by Standard Bank economist Chris Hart, who was suspended by the bank after sending out a series of tweets on Sunday evening which included the assertion that “more than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities…”.

According to McLeod, when Manyi told him the charges had been laid, he “warned me rather ominously: ‘The police are coming for you’.”

In the wake of Hart’s suspension, McCleod tweeted:

In a blog post published on Medium, he elaborated on the tweet, arguing that Hart’s statement was not, in fact, racist.

“Hart doesn’t explain what he means when he says “the victims are increasing” (a result of Twitter’s 140-character limitation?),” McLeod writes in the post, “but reading his other tweets from Sunday, I surmise that he means that the present government has failed to address the terrible legacies inherited from the apartheid system sufficiently”.

While McLeod acknowledges that Hart’s “primary offending tweet could have been better worded, but when read in conjunction with what else he tweeted — and what he’s said over the years in the media — I still feel, after careful consideration, that he’s been unfairly treated in the court of public opinion”.

On Twitter, the TechCentral founder also expressed sadness at seeing people “calling for racist speech to be outlawed”.

“Even racist idiots like Penny Sparrow have a right to free speech in a democracy,” he added in reference to the KZN-based estate agent who this week landed in hot water for comparing black people to monkeys.

In his blog post, McLeod acknowledges that “a more nuanced approach is necessary, especially given the institutionalised racism of the apartheid system and the long-lasting and unforgivable damage it did to black South Africans and their aspirations”.

“While I am thoroughly allergic to censorship (I am old enough to remember how the Nats crushed free speech in South Africa),” McLeod writes, “I am also sensitive to the fact that racism continues to be a very real problem in our society, especially among whites”.

On Twitter, McLeod called the charges laid against him “pathetic” and alleged that the people laying the charges were “just grandstanding”, adding that there is “Nothing racist in anything I’ve tweeted and there never will be”.

In response to questions emailed by Memeburn, McLeod said, “there is no case against me and I will defend myself against what any sane person can see are spurious charges”.

The TechCentral publisher told Memeburn that he doesn’t know why charges were brought against him. “I have clashed previously with Mr Manyi on Twitter,” he told us. “It may have something to do with that. I certainly find it highly objectionable that I’m being lumped with vile racists”.

: In a second blog post meanwhile, McLeod says that “by targeting me, Manyi is going after an innocent person”.

“Manyi has repeatedly unfairly accused me of racism,” he writes, “a charge I reject out of hand and regard as highly defamatory. I suspect a political motivation”.

McLeod says he does not intend to take up legal representation at present. “I hope Mr Manyi withdraws the charges, which I believe are spurious,” he told Memeburn. “But if he doesn’t, I’d hope a top lawyer would be prepared to take this case on pro bono as I believe it has huge implications for all of us”.

Memeburn has also approached Manyi for comment and will update the story accordingly.

Image: TechCentral

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