What’s a big deal with Hawks spokesperson’s tweet, my tweeps?

Hawks spokesperson Macintosh Polela has apologised for his tweet on Tuesday (16 Oct.) to Molemo “JubJub” Maarohanye following his conviction by the Protea Magistrate’s Court this week. Maar what the heck for?

Magistrate Brian Nemavhidi denied JubJub and co-accused bail after they were found guilty on four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, reckless and negligent driving, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and unlawful racing earlier on in the day. The two hit six pupils from JulesHigh School and AlmontTechnicalHigh School – who were on their way home from school – while drag-racing their Mini Coopers down Mdlalose Drive in Protea North, Soweto, on March 8 2010. This resulted in Fumani Mushwana and 17-year-old Frank Mlambo surviving the incident with serious injuries, while Prince Mahube, 17, Mlungisi Cwayi, 17, Andile Mthombeni, 19, and Phomello Masemola, 16, lost their lives. 

Reacting to JubJub’s court judgement on murder charges, Polela (@toshpolela) said “I trust that JubJub’s supporters gave him a jar of Vaseline to take to prison”. This, however, was followed by an apology two days later, Oct 18, possibly after many criticised his insensitiveness on the state of rape in South African prisons. He admitted his tweet was “in poor taste” and “profoundly regret posting & hereby retract it. Je suis desole.”

A day before his apology, he wondered why journalists often claimed they tweeted on their personal capacity yet sought his comment on Twitter. He said: “I find it curious when my journalists colleagues declare they twit in their personal capacity & then ask 4 comment about my twits”. Asked by @JosephTshivase what Vaseline is used for in Jail, @toshpolela said it’s for “polishing specialized prison shoes”. Even spokespersons have got a sense of humour? Yeah, right. The tweet made news headline, and even eTV news bulletin, according to @Nigriscens, who questioned the spokesperson’s work, asking whether he had taken any course in media ethics at LSE.

Although I see nothing wrong with the tweet – many reacted angrily to it. The most personal and seemingly hurtful tweet against him came from @simmiareff who asked whether @toshpolela “gave the same ‘Jub Jub Vaseline’ advice to his dad who was in prison” for murdering his mother. This is in relation to the fact that @toshpolela indicated in his book ‘My Father, My Monster’, published last year, that his father killed her mother, Delisile Shezi. Auntie Zinto – Polela’s mother’s younger sister – told him (see pg 26 of the book) that his father killed his mother (see pg 26 of the book) around June, 1982,whose body was found in the Lions River, just outside of Pietermaritzburg (see pg 45). His father was sent to jail and released later.

@Madikoe_ accused @toshpolela of “harbouring a celebrity spokesperson who doesn’t pay maintenance & makes light of peoples miseries in public space”. But, I ask, what purpose, if any at all, does bringing @toshpolela’s maintenance issue and allegations that he has 6 kids with different mothers, serve in his Vaseline comments about JubJub’s sentencing? I mean, really now! It’s not like he’s the only celebrity father to ever allegedly fail to pay for the upbringing of his kids. Or is he? No, there are thousands of them out there. Expelled ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu also criticised Polela. @floydns claimed @toshpolela had been “dropped on his head as a child, hence he tweets driven on #JubJub” and called for his sacking. The “dropped on his head a child” was coined by Sunday Times columnist, Fred Khumalo, when expressing shock at remarks often made by former ANCYL President, Julius Malema. And now @floydns thinks the same of @toshpolela. Yeah, right!

But while @toshpolela may have come under a lot of criticism and seemingly ignoring and blocked those who mentioned him, there are, however, those who saw nothing wrong with his tweet. On Wednesday (Oct 17), @Xreje said @toshpolela is, like all twitters and journos, an individual who also “gives a personal opinion in a personal capacity as do most of us.” Even @MandyWiener defended him. She asked why only he was singled out when “there were so many bad tweet posted by other people”. In the entire hullabaloo about @toshpolela’s Vaseline comments, there were, of course, some funny ones. Like @Soni_Sepoko’s who said: “To Donate monthly supplies of Vaseline Blue Seal for #JubJub SMS “Vaseline” to 37611, #Polela will deliver faster than DHL”.

It might be true that @toshpolela should have known better. In a “sensitive and politically charged country we live in”, tweeted @MongeziPeter, this much was expected of him. @MongeziPeter, too, admitted @toshpolela’s tweet was an ‘error’ that should not stop him from expressing his sense of humour. This, he said, was because the Vaseline “touch was a bit funny!”

But where Polela, like most journos, should draw the line especially if their tweets, in whatever capacity, will land them in hot water remains unclear and a challenge they will continue to face. But like he said on his profile, his tweets are for his “tweeps”.

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