A white South African woman has been sentenced to jail for a rant against blacks in 2016 that went viral -- marking the first time a person has been imprisoned for using racist language.
Vicki Momberg, a former real estate agent, was sentenced last week to two years by the Randburg Magistrate’s Court in Johannesburg for the rant. The sentence -- after she was found guilty in November on four counts of crimen injuria, or violating a person's dignity -- was reduced by a year because she did not commit the same offense again.
Momberg was captured on cell phone video verbally attacking blacks in general, but a black police officer in particular who had helped her after a robbery. The clip, shot by an unidentified eyewitness, shows her complaining about the "caliber of blacks" in Johannesburg and repeatedly using a racial slur.
"I don't care what anyone says, I do not like a single black in Jo'burg," she's heard saying in the video.
A white officer who tried to calm down Momberg defended his fellow officer.
"I need to explain that I'm not going to allow you to insult my colleagues like that," the officer tells Momberg in the video.
This is the first time someone was imprisoned for a racist act in a country that still grapples with its racially divided past. Almost 30 years after Nelson Mandela was freed by the apartheid government and laws enforcing racial segregation were repealed, Mandela’s dreams of a united rainbow nation are hanging by a thread with racial divisions being sown by politicians and ordinary citizens alike.
Momberg’s sentence was welcomed by the Justice Department.
Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery said the sentence was justified because Momberg was not repentant and was unwilling to take responsibility.
“We welcome the sentence that was handed down. For too long people have been able to say appalling things and get away effectively with a slap on the wrist,” he said.
At the same time, the National Prosecuting Authority said the effective two-year jail term is a landmark sentence that will set a precedent for similar cases.
Momberg remains behind bars until her appearance next week when she will apply for leave to appeal.