Penny Sparrow, the white South African realtor who caused a social media stir early this year for her racist remarks on Facebook comparing black people to monkeys has pleaded guilty to crimen injuria.

Sparrow was fined R5,000 ($350) or 12 months in jail and according to reports she has paid the initial R1,000 ($70), with the balance being expected to be settled in monthly instalments. She was also ordered to read an apology and expressed regret over her racist comments.

In January Sparrow raised the ire of social media with her racist Facebook post in which she said: “These monkeys that are allowed to be released on New years Eve And new years day on to public beaches towns etc obviously have no education what so ever and to allow them loose is inviting huge dirt and discomfort to others.”

“I do know some wonderful thoughtful black people. This lot of monkeys just don’t want to even try…From now I. Shall address the blacks of South Africa as monkeys as I see the cute little wild monkeys do the same pick drop and litter,” she added.

The remarks ignited a heated debate on racism, hate speech and freedom of expression, with calls being made on the need for transformation and the criminalisation of hate speech.

Racism remains South Africa’s enduring problem

In June, Sparrow was fined R150,000 (U.S$9,800) by the Equality Court for the racial comments.

While the ruling  by the Equality Court was well received by various political organisations and South African citizens, the latest ruling is being viewed by some as a lenient “slap on the wrist”, and it could do little to prevent similar cases from happening.

Although the ruling is being considered as lenient by some people, it has been welcomed by others, with the view that courts remain one of the much needed measures, which can help to fight and stop racism and hate speech.

Social media reactions to the court ruling