/ 5 December 2018

Mashaba, SAHRC reach settlement on Ebola tweets

The mayor delivered his state of the city address on Wednesday where he listed his achievements as mayor of Johannesburg under a multi-party coalition
City of Johannesburg mayor, Herman Mashaba. (Gallo)

City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has reached a settlement with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) regarding a tweet he posted where he described an informal trader as bringing Ebola in the “name of small business”.

On November 12, Mashaba effected a citizen’s arrest in Johannesburg’s CBD on an informal trader who was pushing a trolley of cow heads for sale. The chief of metro police in Johannesburg David Tembe also tweeted details of the arrest, describing the individual as an “undocumented person” and confirming that he would be charged.

The mayor issued a statement two days later, apologising for the tweet which insinuated undocumented migrants present the risk of causing an Ebola outbreak.

“I apologise for what has appeared to be insensitivity towards the plight of informal traders in our city, attempting to earn a living,” he said.

Mashaba further apologised for his comments being construed as an “attack on any person or group — informal traders or our foreign residents.”

But he said he can “never apologise” for “safeguarding the health” of Johannesburg’s residents and the “rule of the law”.

In a statement, the commission said it assessed Mashaba’s response and “was of the view that it implicated a number of rights listed in the Bill of Rights.”

The SAHRC conducted an investigation where it also took the complaints from members of the public into account. Mashaba appeared before the commission to clarify his tweets and give his side of the story.

The conciliation meeting — chaired by Commissioner Angie Makwetla — noted the issues of migration, social cohesion and the role of governing leaders in “perpetuating stereotypes relating to migration and migrant communities” and Mashaba’s apology.

The settlement reached at the conciliation meeting was for Mashaba and the leadership of the city will take part in a human rights workshop under the guidance of the SAHRC. The second agreement was that the City of Johannesburg and the commission will host a social cohesion summit during Africa Month in May 2019, with the aim of “fostering social cohesion between the migrant community and locals”.

The third part of the settlement is a multilateral meeting between the departments of home affairs and labour and the City of Johannesburg which will be facilitated by the commission. 

Read the SAHRC’s statement below: 

SAHRC Media Statement by Mail and Guardian on Scribd