First criminal conviction for antisemitism – a warning

  • Letsoalo
The first criminal conviction in an antisemitism case in South Africa may have an impact on how the courts will rule in pending cases where Jews are the subject of attack.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Oct 29, 2020

Matome Letsoalo, who lives in Limpopo, was last week found guilty in the Randburg Magistrates Court of crimen injuria – a crime defined as “unlawfully and intentionally impairing the dignity or privacy of another person” – for a string of vile and abusive posts targeting the Jewish community.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) described the verdict as a “major step forward in the battle against online antisemitism”.

The SAJBD’s attorney, Ian Levitt, told the SA Jewish Report this week that the conviction was important, and could serve as a lesson to others who attack the community.

“Criminal charges have been laid against others who have spewed their antisemitic hatred. I’m sure that this successful prosecution will find its way to them, and if they ignore this judgment, they will do so at their peril,” he said.

The case against Letsoalo, who pleaded guilty, goes back to June 2018 when he posted on Twitter, “@SAJBD The #Holocaust Will be like a Picnic When we are done with all you Zionist Bastards. Fuck All of You.” He attached an image of Holocaust victims. Later that day, he put out another post, which read, “@SAJBD Must get Decimated. We Can’t have Scandanavian Rats, Fake Jews, Zionist Bastards Running our Economy.” In subsequent Twitter exchanges with Jewish community members who challenged him, he posted further abusive messages on his since blocked @JustSmartRage Twitter account.

Police eventually caught up with Letsoalo, who seemingly went to ground for nearly a year, tracking him down to Seshego township in Polokwane. At the time of his offensive posts, he also posted distressing Holocaust photographs, a swastika, and images of burning Israeli flags.

When criticised online for calling Jews “rats” and “scum”, he posted a picture of a semi-automatic weapon and tweeted, “I’m ready for you.” It’s believed that Letsoalo has been blocked from both Facebook and Twitter, and has been banned from writing for News24, where he has featured in the past.

At the time of the postings, Letsoalo also allegedly threatened Levitt in a tweet in which he said, “You won’t take me to court cause I would Shoot you Dead in front of Police. Don’t mistake me for the common Native.”

Wendy Kahn, the national director of the SAJBD, said it was the first time the Board had gone the criminal route with an antisemitism case. “This is an important precedent in terms of future antisemitism cases, including other matters that we have sitting in the courts.”

Milton Shain, emeritus professor of historical studies at the University of Cape Town, welcomed the verdict.

“There should be no impunity for those making racist, sexist, antisemitic, and homophobic comments. This is a welcome decision. The Jewish community can take sustenance and be pleased that its efforts to quell ugly behaviour have borne fruit',” he said.

Meanwhile in a separate matter, the SAJBD has laid a criminal case against Jan Lamprecht, describing him as a purveyor of pro-Nazi, white supremacist, and radical antisemitic ideologies.

Lamprecht, an English-speaking “ex-Rhodesian” who lives in Johannesburg, has allegedly spewed vicious hate against Jews and all people of colour for a number of years on social media.

He is prolific on social media, managing multiple websites including one called HistoryReviewed, and uses homemade YouTube videos to rant inflammatory racist material.

He lauds white supremacists, including Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooter Robert Bowers, and Charleston Church mass killer Dylann Roof.

The SAJBD has applied for a protection order against Lamprecht following the abusive comments he made on social media targeting the Gauteng chairperson, Professor Karen Milner.

He posted a photograph of her online with disparaging comments about her, as well as some of her personal details, after she laid crimen injuria charges against him. It resulted in her receiving further hate mail from local and international right-wing hate groups.

According to David Saks, SAJBD associate director, Lamprecht is part of a global network of ultra-right white supremacists whose ability to share and disseminate their ideology has been greatly facilitated by online communication.

Lamprecht’s views are “twisted beyond belief”, he told the SA Jewish Report this week. “He is the worst offender I have come across in 20 years at the Board.

“He is completely unapologetic and unrestrained in his in-your-face raw hatred of Jews and non-white people,” Saks said.

Lamprecht describes Jews as the “race of garbage”; “filthy little rats and pathological liars”; “the race of shit”; “shit bags”; and “two-faced, backstabbing fiends”. “The only good Jew is a dead one” he has written, and “There is no such thing as a good Jew.”

In some of his writings, he accuses Jews of causing a race war in the United States, and accuses Jews of manipulating the South African high court and “pulling strings” in government and the police.

He is due to appear in court next month.

Kahn said the outcome in the Letsoalo case would send a strong message that threatening and hate-filled attacks on the community “won’t be tolerated”.

“The SAJBD will do everything necessary to bring those responsible to justice, no matter how long it takes,” she said.

Although the Letsoalo case took two years, and in spite of several delays mostly brought by COVID-19, they weren’t swayed in their determination to have him convicted, said Levitt.

“We will continue to assist in the prosecution of those that attack our community, seemingly with impunity, and we hope that this conviction will be a lesson to those who do so,” he said.

Letsoalo, who was represented by legal aid, told the court he had to borrow money for transport to appear in court. He will appear again this Friday for mitigation and sentencing.

3 Comments

  1. 3 irvine 29 Oct
    Let's hope that the punishment matches catsevelos,and sparrow matters
  2. 2 VIVIENNE PAIKEN 29 Oct
    This is a wonderful achievement and restores a bit of faith after all the negative issues coming to the fore in our beloved South Africa. Gives a bit of light and hope. We are a giving and loving nation and those holocaust survivors who had everything taken away from them were gaunt and full of lice starved picked themselves up and rebuilt their future without looting stealing burning and expecting anything from anybody. We have always survived as a nation despite the world trying to get rid of us over the centuries. Well done
  3. 1 Douglas Gibson 01 Nov
    Warm congratulations on the successful prosecution of Matome Letsoalo for his unbelievably crude remarks and his expressed hatred of Jews. South Africa's strength - not weakness - is its multitude of languages, colours, cultures and religions and it is for that reason we must strive to achieve the Constitutional imperatives of human dignity, equality and non-racialism.

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