Weekly Kuli Roberts column to be discontinued

The weekly Kuli Roberts column in Sunday World will be discontinued with immediate effect, the newspaper’s editor Wally Mbhele said on Monday.

This came after complaints that the latest column — on coloured people — was racist.

Mbhele said Avusa Media and Sunday World acknowledged the outcry over the colour, headlined Jou Ma se Kinders.

He said it made derogatory generalisations about coloured people which were in clear violation of the South African Press Code and Avusa Media’s internal codes.

“The column was also not in keeping with Avusa’s commitment to building a non-racial and non-sexist society … the weekly column would be discontinued with immediate effect. The online version of the offending column has been removed.”

Mbhele said he took full responsibility “for the offending column appearing in my newspaper”.

“While I recognise the right of columnists to express their opinions without fear or favour, these should not amount to prejudice. This column showed clear prejudice against a section of South African society. For this I unreservedly apologise to South African society and to Sunday World readers,” he said.

Avusa Media Editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya said the company had already begun an internal inquiry into the matter.

“As a leading media company and a responsible corporate citizen Avusa Media will not allow any of its titles to disseminate prejudicial commentary that re-enforces divisions and entrenches racial stereotypes. We are totally committed to the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution,” said Makhanya.

“Usher music video”
In her column Roberts remarked that coloured girls were the future “for various reasons. You will never run out of cigarettes”, she wrote.

“You will always be assured of a large family as many of these girls breed as if Allan Boesak sent them on a mission to increase the coloured race.

“They are the closest thing to being a white woman and we know you black men love them as they look like they’ve popped out of an Usher music video.”

“They have no front teeth and eat fish like they are trying to deplete the ocean” and that “they love to fight in public and most are very violent,” she continued.

Roberts’ column comes amidst a furore over remarks made about coloureds by government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi.

Manyi, then the director-general of labour, said in a show broadcast on KykNet’s Robinson Regstreeks in March 2010 that there was an “over supply” of coloureds in the Western Cape.

The ANC distanced itself from Manyi’s remarks, saying they were “disturbing” and “unacceptable”, while Cosatu said the comments would inflame fears within the coloured community.

Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) deputy chief executive officer Vusi Mona apologised for the remarks on Manyi’s behalf.

Manyi is not the first public official to be in trouble over racist remarks about coloureds.

“Investigating a complaint”
In 2005 the spokesperson for City of Cape Town, the late Blackman Ngoro, was fired after referring to coloureds as “beggars, homeless and drunk on cheap wine”.

Earlier on Monday, the SA Human Rights Commission said it was investigating a complaint about the column.

“We received a formal complaint about the article this morning,” SAHRC spokesperson Vincent Moaga said.

“We will look at it, assess it and see how to handle it.”

Moaga could not say who had lodged the complaint.

City Press editor Ferial Haffajee said she “nearly fainted” when she read column written by Roberts.

“I nearly fainted when I read it,” Haffajee said on Monday. “I thought we well past that kind of racist sexist writing.

“That kind of blatant racism and sexism is so yesterday.

“It’s the kind of writing that gets us into trouble with our readers.

“If I was the editor of the newspaper, I’d read the column and make sure it did not get printed.”

Haffajee said that firing a columnist was not “the way to go”.

“I think she should apologise,” Haffajee said.

“I think the paper should apologise and give its readers the right to reply.”

The Sunday Times, also part of the Avusa group, fired its controversial, cigar-smoking columnist David Bullard for writing a racist column in 2008. — Sapa

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