CAPE TOWN – Matthew Theunissen, whose early-morning Facebook rant about the government and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula's decision to bar sports bodies from hosting international tournaments, has apologised for his comments – insisting he is not a racist.
Asked what was going through his mind at the time, Theunissen, 26, told CapeTalk presenter John Maytham on Tuesday afternoon: "I was seething – I was very angry at the statements by the sports minister. Sport is a massive passion of mine. I’ve also been unemployed for the past year. I can’t find work because of politics in this country."
"I was in an extremely bad mood and place. I immediately deleted the post but it had already spread. I thought I got it (the post) down in time. I didn’t mean those words, I instantly regretted it. I’ve never used them before."
"Anyone who knows me knows I’m not racist. I had a good go at the government but it wasn't intended at the country as a whole. I used very hurtful language. I will regret it for the rest of my life. I shouldn’t have used those words and I should have addressed the sports minister directly."
"I’m not a racist – I’m an individualist. I have plenty of friends that are of colour. You can ask anyone about my character and nobody will tell you I’m a racist."
On Tuesday, South Africans responded to the incident on social media with the hashtag #MattTheunissen and #MatthewTheunissen trending all day. On Facebook, over 66,000 Facebook users were talking about the issue.
Later, it was reported that Theunissen’s CV (containing his telephone number, ID number and residential address) on his LinkedIn profile was widely distributed on Twitter.
"My phone is off because I can’t receive any more messages. So far, I’ve received support from friends and family to get over this difficult time."
"There's no running away from this. (It's the) biggest mistake of my life. I’ll get hold of the SA Human Rights Commission and deal with them directly to see how they want to deal with the matter. I just want to get rid of this and put it behind me. I’ll approach every avenue I can in order to move on and help the country."
While some CapeTalk callers were forgiving in their comments, the twittersphere was not quite as charitable:
— Keagh Tlhapi (@I_Liveth) May 3, 2016
#MatthewTheunissen IDIOT. Not everyone feels the way you do and you CANNOT go around being a racist. Think before you type!!!!— Roxanne Smit (@roxanne_smit) May 3, 2016
I bet #MatthewTheunissen is wishing he was black & a member of the EFF right now. He would be up for a promotion for sure.— Alfred States (@Alfred_StatesX) May 3, 2016
#MatthewTheunissen sounds like he is more sorry his racist post went viral and caused outrage than he is about the content of it— Siya Miti I (@SiyaMiti_the1ST) May 3, 2016
Theunissen's Facebook post is the second racist issue that emerged on Facebook out of Cape Town this past week.
On Thursday, Ntokozo Qwabe, a leading figure in the Rhodes Must Fall movement at Oxford University, boasted on Facebook about making a white waitress cry at Obz Cafe in Observatory.
“LOL wow unable to stop smiling because something so black, wonderful LIT just happened!” he wrote.
Qwabe credited his RMF comrade, the “radical non-binary trans black activist” Wandile Dlamini for the incident.
In the Facebook post, Qwabe explained when their bill arrived, he did not know what the appropriate amount was for a tip. Dlamini then took the slip of paper and wrote on it: “WE WILL GIVE TIP WHEN YOU RETURN THE LAND”.
When the waitress, 24-year-old Ashleigh Schultz, returned to process the payment, she looked at the note and apparently started shaking and teared up – which Qwabe referred to as “typical white tears”.
Qwabe goes on to detail how he and his fellow diners informed Schultz’s colleague – a white male – that it was premature to start “catching feelings” as “the part where we take up arms hasn’t even come”.
The incident ignited a backlash against Qwabe, who was branded a racist bully. Two online fundraising campaigns for Schultz (whose mother is reported to have cancer), were launched, attracting more than R130,000 in donations.
One of the online campaigns initiated by Sihle Ngobese, a spokesperson for the provincial Social Development Department, who decided to tip her instead.
A change.Org petition titled "Oxford University to revoke Ntokozo Qwabe's scholarship or initiate disciplinary actions" has gathered 25,166 supporters so far.