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702's Own Presenter Xolani Gwala Says The Station's Apology Over A Racist Tweet Isn't Good Enough

"It is despicable."

24/07/2017 16:49 SAST | Updated 24/07/2017 16:49 SAST
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Omar Essack.

Primedia Broadcasting's CEO Omar Essack has insisted there is no place for racism in the company, after an official Radio 702 tweet compared two black toddlers with dogs and asked: "Who's cuter?"

Essack was speaking to presenter Xolani Gwala on 702's breakfast show on Monday about a tweet which was sent on Sunday after the Walk the Talk walk that day.

People have given vent to their fury on social media.

Gwala expressed his anger over the tweet, saying that an apology was not sufficient. He said a short apology (see below) is not enough for the level of hurt such a post could generate in South Africa.

"It is despicable. It is distasteful for a company that is in the communications space, that tells peoples' stories. Whoever tweeted this obviously does not understand the people, whose stories we are trying to tell on this radio station, [they] do not understand the sensitivities of the people whose stories we are trying to tell."

Gwala said the 'half-baked' apology did not say how the person responsible would be held to account, and gave no context.

The apology

We apologize unreservedly for an offensive tweet published today.

You have every right to be angry and offended. We strive to uphold the highest standards in our communication with you. Our mission is to communicate in a manner that builds social cohesion and a sense of community. In this instance we failed.

We offended South Africans and are sorry. This does not meet the standards that we expect from ourselves.

Essack acknowledged that the tweet was a "grievous error" and apologised on behalf of the broadcaster. "What's important is respect between each other, a sensitively and a willingness to learn about each other. And in the macrocosm of South Africa we are still not there," he said.

Essack said management would be taking action regarding the tweet, and would be sitting down with social media manager responsible to determine whether it came from a place of naivety or racism.

He continued: "In this country we have a history where black people have been objectified over centuries and that is wrong."

Former 702 drive-time host Redi Tlhabi took to twitter to vent her frustrations about the matter.

In a series of tweets, she commends Gwala for challenging Essack about the matter. She also said 702 is the only radio station that would allow their CEO to be grilled in that way by one of its own employees.

Tlhabi then tweeted about young people in companies, who may not be given enough guidance to "navigate complex RSA issues, identity, subconscious prejudice without checks and balances".

She said the apology was "vacuous and glib" with no exploration of the real issues at stake.

When HuffPost SA tried to find out what was being done to hold the producer responsible, Primedia said Essack would not be making any further comments on the matter.

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