Indian-origin columnist fired from South African radio broadcaster after ‘zombie Zuma’ remark

Ravi Naidoo Govender, a veteran Indian-origin radio presenter, has been fired by South Africa’s public broadcaster for allegedly making derogatory remarks on his Facebook page against President Jacob Zuma.

The Lotus FM radio presenter’s comments on the social media platform following Zuma’s address at the African National Congress’ National Policy Conference kicked off a frenzy. “Just heard a Zombie Zuma giving a speech on the news. Massacring the beautiful English language… Uneducated creature. Even the other moron (Zimbabwe President Robert) Mugabe speaks much better,” Govender, who is also a columnist and community worker, wrote.

Ravi Govender.
Ravi Govender. Photo courtesy: Facebook

The controversial remarks led to online reactions with some people supporting his freedom of speech while some condemning him. Following the outrage, Govender tendered his apologies and said the reference to Zuma being a ‘zombie’ was due to his anger at the “dead” way in which he had delivered his address in English. However, one of Zuma’s sons Edward Zuma, speaking on behalf of the entire Zuma family, refused to accept the apology and threatened to lay charges against Govender.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation, which owns Lotus FM, on Monday distanced itself from the comments, claiming they had brought the organisation into disrepute. There have already been many calls for listeners of and advertisers on Lotus FM to boycott the station, although Govender only did a weekly show.

While there was support for Govender’s right to freedom of speech, there were those with a view that he had crossed the line with his choice of derogatory adjectives to describe both Zuma and Mugabe.