The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation welcomes the action taken against Hot 91.9 FM DJ, Sasha Martinengo, for his racist characterisation of EFF leader, Julius Malema.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, said, “We welcome the fact that the station has dismissed Martinengo hours after calling Julius Malema a ‘monkey’. We also commend the EFF for ensuring that the matter is taken further and that criminal charges will be brought against Martinengo.”
Balton expressed his disappointment in Martinengo’s response to the action taken against him. “Instead of retracting his statement, apologising unreservedly, and admitting his racism, Martinengo went on to justify why using the word ‘monkey’ is supposedly okay. We’ve been through this before with regards to other incidences, particularly the H&M case, repeatedly highlighting why comparing a black person to an ape is racist,” he said.
“The word or depiction of an ape in reference to a black person is deeply offensive. It’s unacceptable and unjustifiable, irrespective of what criticisms one may raise against a particular individual,” he added.
“Black people have for hundreds of years been compared to apes or simians. This act, called simianisation, sought to dehumanise black people and entrench the ‘racial superiority’ of white people. Once you dehumanise someone, you justify acting in an inhumane way towards that person. Historically, the systematic dehumanisation of black people led to worst kind of atrocities, including slavery, colonialism and apartheid.
“Today, black people in different parts of the world continue to be dehumanised by being compared to apes, whether it is by a racist soccer fan who throws a banana at a black football player on the pitch, or by depicting the Obamas as apes in a newspaper,” he said.
Balton added, “One would have hoped that the H&M incident would have made people realise just how offensive simianisation is, but it seems that some still feel comfortable using language and comparisons that are steeped in racialised history.
“Apart from Martinengo’s own statements, the comments of some social media users who are in support of him, bear distinct racial overtones that leave one disgusted and disturbed.”
Balton stated, “There should be no leniency when it comes to addressing racism. The anti-racists in society must continue calling it out and raising the alarm. Victims of racial abuse should be empowered and supported to ensure that action is taken against perpetrators through the South African Human Rights Commission, the Equality Courts and the criminal justice system. We cannot allow racists to gain the upper hand and drown out the voices and actions of those who are committed to ensuring the entrenchment of non-racialism, a foundational element of our Constitution.”