/ 28 August 2011

Police distance race from controversial Facebook picture

There should not be a racial connection made to the picture on Facebook in which a white man poses with a rifle over an apparently lifeless body of an African child, the police ministry said on Sunday.

“Even if the child was white, or the man was black … once you narrow it down to a racial aspect it becomes problematic. Murder is murder,” Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said.

The image, published in the Sunday Times, is on the profile of a user called, “Eugene Terrorblanche”, a play on the name of the murdered Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader.

“Terrorblanche” had 583 “friends” on the social networking site by midday Sunday, seven less than on Saturday.

On his profile, he listed knifes, firearms and weapons as his interests, and self-defence, close combat fighting, weapons training and shooting as his activities.

Inciting violence
Mnisi said the minister had ordered an immediate investigation and called on the man in the picture — or anyone who knows him — to come forward to assist in the probe.

He said it was early in the investigation but if the picture was authentic the responsible person must be prosecuted. There must also be another person involved, as someone took the photograph.

If the picture turned out to be digitally manipulated it was inciting violence and there were connections to violence, he explained.

Everyone partly responsible in the posting of the picture, or whoever created the profile and those who have seen it but failed to report it, could face prosecution.

“There are so many questions that need to be answered.”

The ministry first became aware of the picture on Saturday when they were approached for comment by the Sunday Times, Mnisi said.

“From us as police we see this as shocking,” Mnisi said.

Child advocacy groups said the production and dissemination of the picture violated several laws.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said the party was “horrified by the picture”.

“Whether or not the picture is genuine, it represents a scene of extreme violence perpetrated against a child by a man. The intention is to evoke racial hatred and polarisation,” she said in a statement. — Sapa