Prof Motala vs Sunday Times – Dismissed

Complainant: Prof Motala

Article: When our leader sneezes, the media much catch a wake-up


Respondent: Sunday Times

Dear Prof Motala

Your complaint against Sunday Times (“When our leader sneezes, the media much catch a wake-up”, by Fred Khumalo) refers.
Your main complaint is that the column is racist and stereotyping of Indians.
The following considerations should be taken into account:
  1. Type of literature
The whole piece is satirical – Khumalo is making fun of some stupid things humans do, like asking why did the president sneeze, did he use a handkerchief, what was the colour of the handkerchief? The piece is also tongue-in-the cheek, searching for some humour.
  1. Type of journalism
This is a column, where journalists enjoy freedom to voice their views.
  1. Responsiblilty
You are correct in that the above-mentioned freedom should be exercised with responsibility, meaning that it should happen within the boundaries set by the Constitution.
  1. Racism
I agree that South Africans should be sensitive to racial profiling, as you say in your complaint.
Racism, as I understand it, has mainly to do with the prejudiced belief that one group is superior to the other, as well as discriminatory or abusive behavior or language towards members of another race.
I do not believe that the column is racist as it does not proclaim a belief that Indians as a group are inferior (or superior) and it also does not use discriminatory language towards “Indians”. Khumalo writes: “If I were to be approached by a Gupta, I would take the offer with alacrity.” This is not racist talk, surely.
  1. Stereotyping
Stereotyping is indeed dangerous, as it takes away individual merit and wrongly attributes things to individuals.
Khumalo did not do this. Consider the following sentence: “However, let me point out that you should also be careful what kind of Indians you are associating yourself with.” This sentence suggests that not all Indians are the same – the opposite of stereotyping.
  1. In a bad light
If some Indians were put in a bad light, it cannot be ascribed to racism or stereotyping. There are bad people in every group/race.
Joe Thloloe, the Press Ombudsman, and I have therefore decided to dismiss your complaint.
You can ask for leave to appeal. Write to Judge Ralph Zulman, fully setting out your reasons. He can be reached at