"[W]henever we see that little white bastard called Jared Sacks we must beat the shit out of him … " Mngxitama, who also contributes to the M&G, said on Facebook.
Mngxitama took exception to an article written by social activist and independent journalist Jared Sacks in the M&G on March 15 titled, Biko would not vote for Ramphele.
According to GroundUp, later, in the same Facebook correspondence, Mngxitama wrote: "I know this white boy. He goes to the township, fuck up community organisations and now he is fucking with biko and bc. No! This is not a joke. He better b prepared."
A Facebook friend of Mngxitama wrote in response to him, "To be honest, I thought this was a thought provoking read, regardless of the fact it's written by a whitey."
To which Mngxitama responded: "U obviously not a bc adherent so u discard the insult and arrogance of the white boy and 'follow' the reasoning. I'm black consciousness bru and I know what white arrogance is. Jared will pay for this."
Mngxitama has recently had his first fiction book published, Fools of Melville. He is a policy advisor to the Foundation for Human Rights.
Now fellow human rights activists and political commentators, in a letter to the M&G, have lambasted Mngxitama for his threats against Sacks.
'It is downright unethical'
"Andile Mngxitama and Athi Joja have every right to criticise Jared Sacks for his piece on Mamphela Ramphele and Steve Biko … but it is downright unethical for Mngxitama to threaten Sacks with violence – and to incite Sacks to resort to violence too – because Mngxitama did not like what he wrote," the letter said.
The letter was signed by Abahlali baseMjondolo, Zackie Achmat, Bheki Buthelezi, Jane Duncan, Jacques Depelchin, Nathan Geffen, Kenneth Good, Marie Huchzermeyer, Vashna Jagarnath, Ayanda Kota, Firoze Manji, Aubrey Mokoape, Michael Neocosmos, Thembani Onceya, Richard Pithouse and the Unemployed Peoples' Movement.
The letter added: "We accept that it's in the nature of Facebook for people to express themselves bluntly – it's not a completely public forum. But there must be accountability for what one says, even on Facebook, and particularly if one is a public figure. People often 'friend' people such as Mngxitama because of their public profile. To want to settle a political dispute through a physical fight, which is what Mngxitama calls for on his page [accessible to more than 5 000 people] is a terrible message for a public intellectual of Mngxitama's stature to be communicating."
"Such threats can be profoundly intimidating to the person they are directed against, even if they are not meant literally – others may take them so. They also have implications for the Mail & Guardian, and freedom of expression more broadly, because people who approach the paper to publish their articles may be put off if they fear being subjected to similar threats."
"Anyone who wishes to put their views into the public domain should accept that others may disagree, at times fiercely, but should not fear fortheir safety when they do so. This will leads to self-censorship," the letter said.
"Mngxitama comes across as a bully who can only win arguments by policing the boundaries of the discourse on black consciousness through intimidation, rather than through robust argument. It is also important that the M&G speak on this issue as well, denouncing Mngxitama's threat of violence, to protect the freedom of its contributors and to communicate a clear message that such threats are unacceptable."
Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Yasmin Sooka, wrote to GroundUp and said: "I would like to place on record that the Foundation for Human Rights is committed to the values of non-racism, non-sexism and non-discrimination enshrined in the Constitution and to building an inclusive society in which the dignity and equality of all citizens is supreme.
"The foundation does not condone violence or the incitement to violence and/or the expression of hate speech. We intend to investigate the matter fully and to take appropriate action that may be necessary."
Tweeters also reacted to Mngxitama's Facebook post stating: