South African Tour Operators in Botswana Warned Over Racist ‘K-Word’

Fredrick Ngugi August 29, 2016
Tourists travelling through the Okavango Delta, Botswana, in a mokoro. On the Go Tours

South African tour operators in Botswana have been warned over their alleged continued use of the derogatory and racist “K-word” when referring to locals, according to IOL.

The Government of Botswana has accused tourism operators from South Africa of routinely calling locals “kaffirs”, which is a racist term used in South Africa when referring to a black person.

Addressing tour operators in Maun, a tourism capital located in northern Botswana, the country’s Minister for Labor and Home Affairs Edwin Batchu said the K-word is prohibited in Botswana, the same way it is a crime in South Africa.

“We have received several reports from Botswana workers in the tourism sector in the Okavango Delta area, who are routinely called ‘k****rs’ and referred to in other F-words by their employers,” the minister said. “Any expatriate found to be responsible for this will face the relevant criminal charges and deportation soon after prosecution.”

The minister added that the continued use of the derogatory term by South African tour operators against locals is “degrading and impairing” the dignity of Botswana.

According to the minister, it is a criminal offense to call someone a “kaffir”, which he termed as “a degrading word used unlawfully but intentionally as hate language to demean and impair the dignity of other persons.”

Use of K-Word in South Africa

The South African use of “kaffir” is derived from the Arabic term “kaffir”, which means a disbeliever or “one without religion”. Arab traders in South Africa used the term to refer to non-Muslims in the early 20th century.

However, the term obtained a derogatory meaning in South Africa during apartheid as white people adopted it to racially profile indigenous blacks.

It is now a crime to use the term in South Africa as it is regarded as highly racially offensive. It is the equivalent of “nigger” in the United States.

Since 1976, under the offense of Crimen Injuria (the unlawful, intentional and serious violation of the dignity of another), the use of the word “kaffir” remains actionable in South African courts.

Last Edited by:Deidre Gantt Updated: June 19, 2018


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