Veteran Indian-origin radio presenter Ravi Naidoo Govender has been fired by South Africa’s public broadcaster for allegedly making derogatory remarks on his Facebook page against President Jacob Zuma.
Lotus FM radio presenter Govender caused a stir after posting comments on the social media platform following Zuma’s address at the African National Congress’ National Policy Conference here. “Just heard a Zombie Zuma giving a speech on the news. Massacring the beautiful English language… Uneducated creature. Even the other moron (Zimbabwe President Robert) Mugabe speaks much better,” Govender, who is also a columnist and community worker, wrote.
The controversial remarks led to online reactions with some people supporting his freedom of speech while some condemning him. Following the outrage, Govender tendered his apologies and said the reference to Zuma being a ‘zombie’ was due to his anger at the “dead” way in which he had delivered his address in English. However, one of Zuma’s sons Edward Zuma, speaking on behalf of the entire Zuma family, refused to accept the apology and threatened to lay charges against Govender.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation, which owns Lotus FM, on Monday distanced itself from the comments and cancelled Govender’s yesterday, claiming his comments had brought the organisation into disrepute. There have already been many calls for listeners of and advertisers on Lotus FM to boycott the station, although Govender only did a weekly show on the station.
While there was support for Govender’s right to freedom of speech, there were those with a view that he had crossed the line with his choice of derogatory adjectives to describe both Zuma and Mugabe. Even though the comments were made on Govender’s personal Facebook page, analysts pointed out that there have been many legal cases where people were fired from their jobs because of their behaviour in public or on social media which could cause harm to their employer or dent their image.
“He could have expressed his view in a less derogatory way and I don’t think his retrospective apology will hold any water if it goes to court,” said a lawyer who works closely with cases at the South African Human Rights Commission, on condition of anonymity.