Durban - US Grammy award winning hip hop star Chris Brown should be allowed to move on with his life after doing his time and taking responsibility for assaulting his girlfriend Rihanna, a gender activist said ahead of his show at Durban's Moses Mabhida stadium on Saturday night.
"He has served his time and I think he has seen the folly of his ways. I don’t think we should imprison people in the court of public opinion," said Mbuyiseli Botha, spokesman for Sonke Gender Justice, an organisation which runs programmes on preventing domestic and sexual violence.
The star arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday night less than two weeks after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James R Brandlin declared that he had finished his parole.
The star also known as "Breezy" tweeted: “I’M OFF PROBATION!!!!!! Thank the Lord!!!!!!” after Brandlin's declaration.
He pleaded guilty to assaulting Rihanna in 2009 and was sentenced to five years' probation and six months of community service and a 52-weeks domestic violence counselling programme.
But, the incident still trails him. When his second South African tour was announced, Independent online reported that feminist and academic Pumla Gqola said buying a ticket for the shows meant supporting Brown with full knowledge of his record.
(Chris Brown arriving in Johannesburg. On Air Entertainment)
But Botha felt that it was important for people to move on with lessons learnt and that “we don’t become a vindictive society”.
“We hope that those that admire him and cherish his music, can see that when you are wrong, you take responsibility, and say ‘I was wrong and I want to move forward and I have learnt my lesson’.”
He could even transcend his past and become a role model to young men and women.
“Some people say, a leopard doesn't change its spots. There are people who are steeped in the culture of unforgiveness. But in our country we are lucky to have the role model of the late Tata [Nelson Mandela] who had no hatred,” said Botha.
Botha was instrumental in the Equality Court hate speech trial of now-Economic Freedom Fighers head Julius Malema, when Malema was still president of the African National Congress Youth League.
Promotor for the Brown concert, Glen Netshipise told Channel24: "He has acknowledged it, he did not deny that it happened. He did his time.
"At some point we need to stop looking at this thing that happened when he was 19."
Netshipise said Brown was not proud of what he did, but it did not need to be central to conversations about him anymore.
Brown has spoken out about the Rihanna assault in several news reports and said his behaviour was inexcusable, but in 2011 said he was tired of apologising.
He has had subsequent brushes with the law which include a confrontation with a fan trying to take a photograph, and being thrown out of rehab.
Publicist Debra de Souza said Thursday night's Johannesburg show was "superb", and without protests.
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