Sentencing of Letsoalo sets important precedent.
Today, the Randburg Magistrates Court sentenced Matome Letsoalo to three years imprisonment, suspended for five years, for threatening and antisemitic tweets that he posted in June 2018. This follows Letsoalo’s pleading guilty last Friday to a charge of crimen injuria lodged by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD).
In pronouncing sentence, presiding Magistrate Barnard stressed that hateful statements of the kind made by the defendant were in violation of the constitution and were becoming all too prevalent in South Africa. The courts therefore had a responsibility to deal firmly with such incidents so as to send a strong message that such behaviour would not be tolerated. For this reason, it had been decided to impose the maximum jail term allowed by a district court. However, in view of Letsoalo’s having entered a guilty plea and expressed remorse for his actions, the sentence would be suspended for five years subject to his not repeating the same offence.
SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn welcomed the court’s decision.
“The fact that the maximum sentence is an encouraging demonstration of the seriousness with which the courts are viewing hate speech, in this case antisemitism, and believe it will be a deterrent to people who feel they are free to engage in such behaviour in our country” she said.
Kahn further pointed out that the ruling had established an important precedent for similar cases that the SAJBD might have to lay in future, and had heralded in tougher consequences for antisemites.
The SAJBD was represented by Ian Levitt Attorneys and Advocate Laurence Hodes.