Recently, Magistrate Pravina Raghunandan handed down a ground-breaking sentence in the Randburg Magistrates Court, on the convicted real estate agent, Vicki Momberg, who was videotaped using the “K-word” forty eight times during a racist tirade, whilst being attended to by a Black police officer after having been a victim of a smash and grab incident.
Momberg was convicted on four counts of crimen injuria in the same court. Crimen injuria is the unlawful and intentional impairing of the dignity or privacy of another person. This crime facilitates the protection of the Constitutional right to human dignity, one of the most fundamental rights in our celebrated Constitution.
Momberg was sentenced to three years imprisonment, one year suspended. This effectively translates into two years direct imprisonment with the third year only to proceed should Momberg commit the crime of crimen injuria once again. In addition, Magistrate Raghunandan denied Momberg bail, pending her application for leave to appeal the sentence.
This is a landmark judgment in the context of crimen injuria in South Africa. First, this judgment draws a clear line in the sand, setting the precedent for a legal approach to racial affronts and the impairment of human dignity. Second, this judgment highlights the societal need for- and legal significance of- the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, yet to be promulgated, which shall serve to criminalise conduct motivated by bias, prejudice or intolerance in the form of hate crimes and hate speech, in the hope of creating the society that our acclaimed constitution envisages.
Ultimately, despite the court’s severe approach to racist slurs having been made abundantly clear, this judgment still stands to be confirmed by a higher court.