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Racist TikTok rant raises community ire

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Antisemitism experts have spoken out against racism following a despicable rant by a young man on TikTok last week.

Charges have been laid against TikTok user Henrico Barnard after two videos of him using multiple racial slurs and expressing his admiration for Adolf Hitler went viral.

Limpopo police spokesperson Motlafela Mojapelo said police in the Waterberg district had opened charges of intimidation, crimen injuria, and incitement to commit crime after the videos caused a stir on social media.

In the videos, Barnard can be heard using the k-word over a dozen times while he criticises the South African police. His tirade was in response to the Muldersdrift shooting incident at Misty Hills Hotel last week, where an armed male guest was shot in the head by a police officer following an altercation. According to reports, Len Cloete tried to disarm a female police officer while daring her to shoot him.

Known as @henricob on TikTok, Barnard’s abhorrent rant went viral on Twitter. Though his social-media accounts have since been deactivated, screen recordings of his disturbing videos have been widely shared.

He referred to black South Africans as parasites, and said he wanted to kill them, specifically police officers. He said he was tempted to drive into a police vehicle or burn down a police station, and threatened to kill any officers who tried to arrest him.

In his second video, he said he was a fan of Hitler, and that white South Africans should do to black South Africans what Hitler did.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) said it was “appalled” by Barnard’s statements, made on 17 November.

“Propagating hatred and inciting violence against people, whether on the basis of race or other such grounds, can never be justified, no matter how much anger or outrage the person responsible may feel.

“While Barnard doesn’t mention Jews directly, the unabashed admiration he expresses for Hitler and his call for genocidal methods to be carried out against black people clearly invokes the Nazi genocide against European Jewry. This amounts to endorsing the horrific crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II.”

SAJBD Associate Director David Saks said, “The videos show with chilling clarity how literally true the expression ‘sick with hatred’ can be. One only has to see the speaker’s distorted facial expressions as he delivers his shocking message to see how thoroughly poisoned he is. That he invokes Hitler as the ‘solution’ to it all isn’t surprising. When people are demonised and dehumanised in this way, justifying and even calling for their extermination becomes the next logical step. It’s also sobering to see someone who has allowed himself to become all but consumed by vitriolic racial prejudice, in spite of having grown up in a non-racial democracy.”

Saks said his words weren’t just an affront to South Africans, but directly threatened the culture of tolerance, non-racism, and mutual respect that “we all need to build in this country if we are ever to move forward”.

“It’s for this reason that there are laws prohibiting hate speech, especially when it constitutes incitement to cause harm,” he said.

Barnard has apologised on social media, but his apology wasn’t well received by those he had hurt and offended.

In his apology, he said, “I’d like to apologise for the videos that I posted. They were cruel and I really am sorry. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. I will now be going off social media, and to everyone who has supported me, I thank you so much.”

Alana Baranov, who represents the SAJBD as founding and steering committee member of the hate crimes working group, said it was important to call attention to racism.

“Our community should speak out about this racist diatribe on TikTok, and we should condemn all acts of hate and bigotry in our country. It’s essential for us to do so not only because of our own history of persecution, from which we know only too well that what starts with hateful words soon becomes acts of violence, but because discrimination and prejudice go against our own religious principles and values. In our ongoing fight against antisemitism, we must take a stand against all forms of racism, for hate directed at one group doesn’t end there. It’s our responsibility as Jews to work towards a more just and caring South Africa.”

Milton Shain, professor emeritus of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town, said Jews should speak out against all forms of intolerance.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise that Jews are obliquely lumped with blacks in this example of vicious bigotry. After all, admiring the Nazi leader can only mean agreement with his actions. We know from decades of attitudinal studies that those who hate Jews invariably hate blacks, and vice versa. There is often a common thread between groups targeted: Jews, blacks, and Muslims. Jews have, for the most part, spoken out against all forms of intolerance and should do so. As often said, it starts with the Jews, but doesn’t end with the Jews. He will have to be dealt with by the laws of the country. If disturbed, this will have to be taken into account.”

The SAJBD said that though freedom of expression was a fundamental democratic right, it couldn’t be used to justify such hateful rhetoric.

“The SAJBD appeals to all South Africans to desist from fanning racial antagonism, and to work together to build an inclusive nation true to the values of equality and freedom enshrined in our Constitution.”

Gushwell Brooks of the South African Human Rights Council told the SA Jewish Report that its Gauteng office had received a complaint, and the commission was looking into the matter.

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