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ANC lodges complaint with SAHRC over DA's 'racist tweet'

Verashni Pillay

The ANC are going to the SA Human Rights Commission about an image of dogs urinating on a party poster sent out by senior DA member Mike Waters.

The ANC says Mike Waters's tweet undermines the dignity and rights of voters. (Gallo)

The ANC lodged a formal complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Wednesday over a tweet by a senior Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, which they say was racist. 

The newly appointed deputy chief whip of the party in Parliament, Mike Waters, tweeted a picture of dogs queuing up to urinate on a poster of President Jacob Zuma on Monday. The picture was edited to include the words: “Voting Day. Make your mark.” 

“The chief whip of the African National Congress in Parliament, Stone Sizani, this afternoon lodged a formal complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission against individuals or institutions whose public conduct and utterances have sought to undermine the dignity and rights of over 11-million voters who elected the ANC into office on May 7 2014,” the ANC said early on Wednesday evening. 

When asked to respond to the ANC’s move to lodge a complaint, DA national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme said: “Mike has admitted he was wrong. He took remedial action. Also, he was not the originator of the photo, he merely tweeted it, which, of course, was wrong. Taking this to the HRC is a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

She stood by the party’s earlier statement that Waters had “apologised profusely for the tweet”. 

“He has agreed that it was ill-considered, offensive and deleted it,” she said.

The tweet was deleted soon after it was posted given the unhappiness it created, but it gained traction through screengrabs and retweets. Waters sent out a brief tweet in apology in the early hours of Tuesday after sustained pressure from Twitter users.

The party’s new leadership in Parliament were slow to react to the outrage. 

Later on Tuesday, the DA’s new leader in Parliament Mmusi Maimane told the SABC that the DA had accepted the apology and would be reviewing its social media policy in response to the uproar. 

“We are in process of reviewing our social media policy. It’s important to put on the table [that] the tweet was in bad taste, not something we stand for. I was comfortable that his apology was genuine. It’s not consistent with the spirit of where we want to go,” said Maimane.

Social media policy
But the Mail & Guardian has seen a copy of the party’s existing social media policy, which has been in circulation for some time within the party, which prohibits the sort of tweet sent out by Waters. It is unclear how additions to the existing social media policy would help matters.

While the DA has been slow to counteract the damage caused by Waters’s tweet, the ANC has reacted rapidly, with new party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa capitalising on the misstep by calling it an insult to black South Africans

“They [DA] have failed to convince the electorate of their policies. They have nothing to offer except to continuously insult the intelligence of people of this country and attack their leadership,” said Kodwa.

The party in Parliament has now taken the matter one step further by approaching the SAHRC. 

Considered decision
The ANC said the decision to lodge a complaint with the SAHRC was not taken lightly but settled on to combat “persisting racism in the country”. 

It also “took into consideration the ongoing attacks against, as well as the undermining of the intelligence of the majority of South Africans who exercised their constitutional right in this year’s election from influential institutions and figures”.

The ill-conceived tweet followed an uproar over a cartoon published by Eyewitness News last week showing ANC ministers and those who voted for them as clowns, and referring to voters as “poephols”.


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