Matome Letsoalo gets 3-year suspended sentence for antisemitic comments

Matome Letsoalo pleaded guilty to a charge of crimen injuria for threatening and antisemitic tweets posted in June 2018.

Picture: SAPS.

JOHANNESBURG - A man convicted of hate speech has been sentenced to three years in prison - suspended for five years - for the transgression.

Last Friday, Matome Letsoalo pleaded guilty to a charge of crimen injuria, and was sentenced in the Randburg Magistrates Court for posting threatening and antisemitic tweets in June 2018.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) brought a charge of crimen injuria against Letsoalo.

The SAJBD - represented by Advocate Laurence Hodes and Ian Levitt Attorneys - called it "the first-ever criminal verdict in an antisemitism case in South Africa".

Letsoalo sent a tweet out saying: “@SAJBD The #Holocaust Will be like a Picnic When we are done with all you Zionist Bastards. F*ck All of You”, accompanied by a picture of Holocaust victims.

He later sent another tweet, reading: “@SAJBD Must get Decimated. We Can’t have Scandanavian Rats, Fake Jews, Zionist Bastards Running our Economy”.

Judge Barnard said the statements were a violation of the Constitution, adding that it was important to send a strong message that such behaviour would not be tolerated.

"For this reason, it had been decided to impose the maximum jail term allowed by a district court. However, in view of Letsoalo’s having entered a guilty plea and expressed remorse for his actions, the sentence would be suspended for five years subject to his not repeating the same offence," an SAJBD statement released on Friday said.

SAJBD national director Wendy Kahn said the ruling established an important precedent.

“The fact that the maximum sentence is an encouraging demonstration of the seriousness with which the courts are viewing hate speech, in this case antisemitism, and believe it will be a deterrent to people who feel they are free to engage in such behaviour in our country” she said.

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