South African Jews celebrate first criminal conviction over online anti-Semitism

South African Jews this week celebrated what they say is the first time someone was convicted for anti-Semitism in their country over two Twitter posts.

On Friday, the Randburg Magistrates Court found Matome Letsoalo guilty of crimen injuria — a crime defined as “unlawfully and intentionally impairing the dignity or privacy of another person” — for two tweets targeting the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD).

“This was the first-ever criminal verdict in an antisemitism case in South Africa,” the group says in a statement.

The sentence is expected to be handed down on Friday.

In June 2018, Letsoalo had tweeted: “@SAJBD The #Holocaust Will be like a Picnic When we are done with all you Zionist Bastards. Fuck All Of You,” together with images of Holocaust victims and a swastika.

In a second tweet, Letsoalo — a man in his 20s from Polokwane, the north of the country — wrote that the SAJBD “Must get Decimated. We Can’t have Scandinavian Rats, Fake Jews, Zionist Bastards Running our Economy.”

Screenshots of two anti-Semitic tweets that have since been removed (screen grab)

The SAJBD pressed charges against him at the time, leading Twitter to suspend the account. This week, the Jewish umbrella group hailed the court’s verdict as a vindication of its efforts.

“This outcome sends a strong message that threatening and hate-filled attacks on our community will not be tolerated and that the SAJBD will do everything necessary to bring those responsible to justice, no matter how long it takes,” the group’s chairwoman, Wendy Kahn, says.

Raphael Ahren