It was a conversation that happened last year but it has proved capable of sparking already charged racial undercurrents in South Africa as a racism row brews over the comments of a white South African judge.
It will not be the first of its kind as South Africa has been hit by a spate of racism rows in recent months due to comments on social media, but this particular case is dangerous for one reason, the woman in question is a judge.
Judge Mabel Jansen allegedly insinuated on social media that rape was part of the culture of black men and the gang-rape of babies, girls and women was seen as a “pleasurable” past-time.
Already, a petition has been launched to demand her removal as a judge but she insists that her comments were taken out of context. The government in responding to the current situation has only stated its intent to toughen anti-racism laws.
The judge who spoke to local media said that the posts were from last May, in a private inbox exchange with South African activist, Ms Gillian Schutte (who revealed the comments to the public) in an attempt to get help for victims of rape and assault.
Ms Schutte said she had made the posts public to to expose the “deep racism and colonial thinking” prevalent in South Africa, but the entire situation begs the question of why she waited a whole year to reveal it, or even more importantly whether any justification can be made for her revealing a conversation that the two had in private.
Some of the more inciting quotes revealed, which are causing the current racism row are;
“In their culture a woman is there to pleasure them. Period. It is seen as an absolute right and a woman’s consent is not required,”
“I still have to meet a black girl who was not raped at about 12. I am dead serious.”
“murder is also not a biggy” for black men and “gang rapes of baby, daughter, and mother [were] a pleasurable pass [sic] time”.
Judge Jansen told News24 that she was referring to specific cases, continuing; “It is very bad when you are attacked on this basis, when you know it is the opposite. I don’t know what she is trying to do.”
Despite her continued assertions to innocence, the hashtag #MabelJansen is trending in South Africa, and a petition, “Remove Judge Jansen for Racist Comments”, has been launched on Facebook.
As to why this latest racism row is more dangerous than others that the country has faced in recent months, all white judges may now risk being cast in the same prejudicial light, a terrible outcome for judges who are looked up to, to see all people as equal before the law.
Also, legal experts say Judge Jensen’s comments could open the way for convicted black people to appeal against her rulings.