DA not serious about racism’ – former DA councillor

Genevieve Quintal and Fienie Grobler, News24 reported that

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Port Elizabeth – DA councillor Chris Roberts, who was fined R10 000 for calling a colleague in the UDM a “bobbejaan” (baboon), wrote an email to another councillor explaining that he had done so in jest and meant no harm.

Roberts was responding to axed DA councillor, Knight Mali, who wrote Roberts an email about the damaging and hurtful comment, made toward UDM councillor, Mongameli Bobani, at a council meeting in Nelson Mandela Bay mid-last year.

Now that Roberts has been fined and told to resign as whip, Mali spoke out about the penalty. “That is a slap on the wrist,” he told News24. “The DA is not serious about issues of racism and transformation.”

Mali is currently embroiled in court action against the Democratic Alliance after he said his membership was terminated last year. He was accused of having links to the ANC, a claim he has denied. “It is time to take a principled stance on racism in the DA,” he said, adding that top management was still dominated by white males.

But the DA’s James Selfe, chairperson of the party’s federal council, said a R10 000 fine was nowhere near a slap on the wrist.

“It is quite clearly not a slap on the wrist. More particularly, when you see some of the fines that are handed down to people who get criminal convictions, a R10 000 fine is a very big fine in our jurisprudence,” Selfe told News24.

“It’s a fine that I wouldn’t be able to pay… without selling something,” said Selfe. “This was a foolish, unthinking moment. And the councillor has paid very heavily in terms of his reputation and his status within the council.”

DA action unfair

Bobani, however, told News24 he was not happy with the action the DA took against Roberts, calling it unfair. “I don’t think the DA takes this racism seriously,” he told News24.

“The fact that they have now confirmed that they are punishing councillor Roberts, they are confirming that he did mention my name as a bobbejaan, which is not acceptable in South Africa.”

That Roberts would still be able to be a councillor, even though he was stripped of any leadership titles, was not fair. “He can tomorrow call another councillor bobbejaan. It’s totally unfair,” said Bobani.

In the email correspondence with Mali, Roberts said he and Bobani had a very cordial relationship, which went back several years. “We frequently engage in good natured banter and joke with one another,” Roberts wrote in the email.

He explained that he “jocularly” said to a fellow DA councillor, Shirley Sauls, that his name was “Bobabooni” after Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, Danny Jordaan, repeatedly tried to pronounce Bobani’s surname correctly, which council found amusing, Roberts wrote.

Roberts apologised to Mali saying he was “deeply saddened” that his comment in council had been a cause for so much offence. “As such, I wish to sincerely apologise unreservedly for any hurt or offence caused to you and assure you that no malice was intended.”

Audio recording

Roberts would not comment on the matter.

Bobani said he was unhappy that neither Roberts nor the DA had apologised to him and questioned why Roberts had not corrected Jordaan instead of calling him “bobbejaan”, which he claimed the DA councillor did three times.

When the speaker reprimanded Roberts he denied calling Bobani “bobbejaan”, but there was an audio recording of the incident, Bobani said.

“Up until we also got the audio… even then he didn’t make an attempt to write to me or to my organisation and say he apologises publicly for what he said.

“He kept saying it was a mistake, it was an error. So to me, personally it was not an error; it was a deliberate act and also if you hear the audio I was deliberating on an item that was talking about colonialism… so it was a reaction, with deliberate intention to harm me personally and my fellow other councillors that are coming from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Bobani said.

He said he also did not understand what Roberts meant by cordial relationship because he had never even had a cup of coffee with him.