A white woman has been sentenced to three years in prison for going on a racist tirade, marking the first time in South Africa’s history that anything more than a fine was given for racial verbal abuse. Vicki Momberg, a real estate agent, was found guilty on four counts of "crimen injuria," or the injuring of someone's dignity, in November, The Washington Post reports. A “viral” video captured Momberg spewing the racial abuse.
Momberg can be seen making disparaging comments about black South Africans and berating police officers — one of whom is black — after they stopped to help her after thieves broke into her car. In addition to complaining about the "caliber of blacks" in the area, she took aim specifically at the black officer, calling him the South African equivalent of the n-word. Her rant prompted another officer to respond, "I need to explain that I'm not going to allow you to insult my colleagues like that.”
“If I see a [racial slur], I will run him over. If I have a gun, I will shoot everybody,” she said at one point. She used the slur 48 times during the video, BBC found.
Momberg’s sentencing is a landmark case in a country that has long struggled to calm racial tensions stemming from apartheid and colonization. South Africa, attempting to rectify a past that includes legally sanctioned racial segregation, recently passed a motion that would seize land from white farmers without financial recompense. The land would then be given to black farmers in a bid to correct racial disparities in property ownership, The Independent reports.
Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery said that Momberg’s sentence was justified due to her lack of repentance and unwillingness to take responsibility.
“We welcome the sentence that was handed down. For too long people have been able to say appalling things and get away effectively with a slap on the wrist,” he said.
National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Phindi Mjonondwane commented, "We are pleased with the sentence. This sends a clear message to those who undermine other people's rights."
Following sentencing, Momberg was denied bail. Her lawyers, who claimed during the trial that their client went into an “emotional storm” at the time of the incident and needs rehabilitation rather than prison time, are expected to file an appeal.
Momberg’s sentencing may be a first, but there have been similar cases in the past. In 2016, a South African court ordered former estate agent Penny Sparrow to pay around $10,000 to charity after calling black people "monkeys" in a Facebook post.
(Photo: Convicted racist Vicki Momberg during sentencing at the Randburg Magistrates Court on March 28, 2018, in Randburg, South Africa. By Simphiwe Nkwali/Sunday Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images)