Woman jailed for two years in South Africa for racial abuse

Former estate agent Vicki Momberg abused black police officers who came to her aid

Vicki Momberg: If her appeal fails, she will become the first person in South Africa to go to prison for subjecting someone to racial abuse. Screengrab: YouTube

Vicki Momberg: If her appeal fails, she will become the first person in South Africa to go to prison for subjecting someone to racial abuse. Screengrab: YouTube

 

A former estate agent who was convicted last year of racially abusing black police officers in 2016 has received a two-year prison sentence in South Africa.

Magistrate Pravina Raghoonandan sent Vicki Momberg to jail for using a highly derogatory word 48 times towards the officers, who had been trying to help her, after she had been robbed in a smash-and-grab incident in Johannesburg.

In November, Momberg was found guilty on four counts of crimen injuria, which under South African common law is defined to be the act of “unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another”.

On Wednesday she received a three-year prison term, of which one year was suspended, as long as she is not convicted of another similar crime over the duration of her sentence.

Magistrate Raghoonandan said during her ruling that some people might think the sentence was harsh, but she maintained it was a signal to society that racism would no longer be tolerated.

The magistrate went on to say that previous prosecutions of people for racial abuse had failed to stem the flow of such incidents, so imposing a direct prison sentence without the option of a fine would send a strong message.

A lawyer representing Momberg has indicated she will appeal against the conviction and sentence. However, if the appeal fails she will become the first person in South Africa to go to prison for subjecting someone to racial abuse.

Momberg’s racist tirade, which took place at a petrol station, was recorded on a mobile phone and then widely distributed on social network platforms.

‘Calibre of blacks’

She repeatedly referred to black people as “kaffirs” – a term widely used during the apartheid era by whites to degrade people of African descent. She also complained bitterly about the “calibre of blacks in Johannesburg compared to black people in Durban”, where she was based.

Momberg had initially argued in court that she could not remember using the abusive language, but when the video evidence was produced in court she could no longer rely on that argument as part of her defence.

She then maintained she only used the derogatory words because she had been overwhelmed by the robbery incident that took place in February 2016.

However, earlier this month the court heard during its deliberations over sentencing that the probation officer tasked with assessing Momberg following her conviction had to go for counselling to deal with the racial abuse she had endured.

After sentencing on Wednesday Momberg’s lawyer Kevin Lawlor asked the court that his client be released on bail pending the outcome of her appeal.

But this application was refused, so Momberg will go to jail at least until April 4th, when her appeal is down for hearing.