Adam Catzavelos

(Twitter screenshot)

Adam Catzavelos: Three factors that could stop him getting prosecuted

At the moment, there’s not an Adam Catzavelos in sight. But when he re-emerges, will a prosecution even come his way?

Adam Catzavelos

(Twitter screenshot)

In the seven days since Adam Catzavelos’ racist rant went viral, South Africans have watched with a morbid fascination over what will happen next.

He’s lost his job and, by association, made his family outright pariahs in this country. In fact, there’s only one thing Adam has left intact, and that’s his freedom. Writing for BizCommunity, law experts LegalBrief explain how he’ll probably get to keep hold of it.

In the first 48 hours of his video hitting social media, the EFF filed a criminal case of racism against South Africa’s newest inductee into the hall of shame. But will Adam Catzavelos face any form of severe punishment? There may be a few barriers between him and the full might of the law.

What might stop Adam Catzavelos getting prosecuted?

Location, location, location

One thing the baying public have been anticipating is Catzavelos’ return home. We’ve no doubt that sales of torches and pitchforks have already gone through the roof. However, it now seems like the businessman – who is of Greek heritage – isn’t in a rush to come home.

Understandable, really. Not very brave, but understandable. Saying the K-word doesn’t have the same implications in Greece as it does in South Africa. And the location of where he took the video could end up saving his bacon.

Gift Kgomosotho of SA’s Human Rights Commission told us last week that Catzavelos could quite easily face charges in Mzansi for actions committed abroad. He is still subject to the rules and regulations of South Africa, and there are genuine grounds for a case of hate speech to be opened.

However, he cannot be extradited for what he did. So while he stays in Greece, he stays out of trouble.

Crimen injuria may not apply

The EFF’s case of criminal racism also includes charges of “crimen injuria” – It is classed as the unlawful, intentional and serious impairment of a person’s dignity and can be committed via a verbal offence. Vicki Momberg was jailed for two years after she was charged with crimen injuria for her K-word rant.

However, crimen injuria typically has to be directed at someone. In Adam’s video, he’s using the K-word to label one entire demographic. Offensive? You bet. But grounds for crimen injuria? Lawyers argue this will prove challenging, as he used the word within the confines of a private group chat – before it was leaked online.

Could “sorry” be the magic word?

Finally, Adam’s behaviour differs to that of South Africa’s most notorious racists. Momberg showed very little remorse for her actions and showed little respect towards her victim or the justice system. She failed to apologise, yet mounted ludicrous claims she went “temporarily insane”.

Meanwhile, Penny Sparrow was whacked with a R150 000 fine after referring to a group of black beachgoers as “monkeys”. Her apology was as half-arsed as it gets, as she followed it with, well, this car crash of a defence:

“I am sorry that it has taken such a viral turn, but it was just a statement of how it was. I made the mistake of comparing them [black people] with monkeys. Monkeys are cute and they’re naughty, but they [black people] don’t see it that way, but I do because I love animals.” Penny Sparrow, 2016, in News24.

We mean this in no way of endorsing Adam Catzavelos, but his apology has a bit more about it. It’s an actual expression of regret over his actions. Whether he’s regretting the fact he’s been caught, and not about what’s been said, that still remains up for debate.

LegalBrief has listed his apology as a mitigating factor in his behaviour, too. But unlike those before him who now live in infamy, it seems his apology could soften the blow. Jail time is unlikely, and if he does return to South Africa, It’s probable that the Equality Court will fine Catzavelos, as they did with Sparrow.