A Limpopo comedian could face criminal charges after the Equality Court found him guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Vatsonga nation, reports News24.

Student Hamilton Mkhothokgo (20), who goes by the stage name Mr Chase, made comments about offering the lives of the Vatsonga nation as sacrifices to the Covid-19 virus. Mkhothokgo said the Vatsonga nation did not bring any value to society. The remarks were widely disseminated on social media platforms.

The Limpopo office of the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) received a complaint in July 2020. SAHRC Limpopo chairperson Victor Mavhidula said the commission was convinced the remarks constituted hate speech, harassment and unfair discrimination based on ethnic and social origin.

"The SAHRC was of the view that the remarks were harmful to our democracy and, if not rebuked, may fuel further tribalistic tensions within the country."

The recent Equality Court sitting in the Tiyani Magistrate's Court indicated that "Mkhothokgo's right to freedom of expression as stipulated in the Constitution did not outweigh the right to dignity and equality of the Mashangaan and Vatsonga people," Mavhidula said. He added that the court questioned why a 20-year-old man who only lived, as the court described it, "with the hangover of apartheid" would share and propagate the views of oppressive regimes.

Finding in favour of the SAHRC, the court said Mkhothokgo's comments constituted hate speech and harassment based on social and ethnic origin, culture, and language, notes the News24 report. Mkhothokgo was ordered to pay damages to an NGO identified by the SAHRC, which works directly on social cohesion matters by promoting the rights of the Vatsonga and Mashangaan ethnic groups. The court also ordered the comedian to apologise on all his social media platforms.

"The court was also confronted with the predicament that although the respondent was found to be in contravention of the Equality Act, he would be unable to pay the fines prayed for by the SAHRC. To address this, and to prevent respondents who transgress the Act from thinking they may propagate inflammatory and harmful statements without having to account for it, the court made an order which directed the clerk of the Equality Court to submit the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, having jurisdiction for the possible institution of criminal proceedings, in terms of the common law or relevant legislation," Mavhidula added.

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