Johannesburg - Two young women who went to war with racist tweets apologised on Thursday and said they wanted to reconcile the country.
"I am aware of the issues I caused for our nation, I am aware of the severity of the word I used," model Jessica Leandra dos Santos said in Johannesburg after she met marketing student Tshidi Thamana.
"I do extend my sincere apologies for the incidents I caused ... I think Tshidi and I will both work on getting the country back to where it was a week ago."
Democratic Alliance national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane arranged a meeting with the two women at his home in Roodepoort. The two shook hands and posed for pictures.
"I don't wish death on anyone of any race of sorts (sic)... I just want to say to Jessica, I am really sorry about wishing death on you and for everything that I've said," Thamana said.
"To South Africa as a whole, my apologies. I really didn't mean any harm and if we have to do something to put the country where it was, we will do it."
Dos Santos, who started the spat with a racist tweet, said: "I didn't realise the impact my tweet would have had on the people [it] offended. We do aim to reconcile and get the nation back to where it was."
On 3 May, Dos Santos told her 2591 followers: "Just, well took on an arrogant and disrespectful kaffir inside Spar. Should have punched him, should have [sic]."
She now has 7 263 followers.
Dos Santos, who was men's magazine FHM model of the year in 2011, deleted the controversial tweet and posted an apology on her blog jessicaleandra.com
In response to this on 7 May, Thamana tweeted: "Dear Mr Peter Mokaba, I wish all whites had been killed when you sang 'Kill the Boer', then we wouldn't have to experience @JessicaLeandra's racism."
"We don't have problems with each other, we don't have problems with any race... We just happened to be individuals that got very upset and very carried away in a tweet on social media and I think we are owning up to it today," Thamana said.
Dos Santos turned to Thamana and said: "Tshidi, I do apologise if the word I used offended you. It wasn't intended to cover the entire black race, but rather at a certain individual that offended me in public."
Maimane said: "It's been a journey for both Jess and for Tshidi ... I felt we needed to give each of these girls an opportunity to communicate to each other and certainly to communicate to you [the public] out there."
He said the meeting was not a publicity stunt, but that he wanted to change the country's narrative.
"We are here to apologise, not to pull a publicity stunt. In both our individual lives we don't practise any racism," Thamana said.
Could be friends
The women, who had not met until Thursday, said they could be friends, were not racists, and had not used such language in their tweets before.
"I can quite easily say that I've never used that word. It boiled [up] from a stress frustration and as I've learned, it's an incorrect and unfortunate word that I've used. Today I've learned the severity behind it," said Dos Santos.
Thamana chirped in: "That tweet was tweeted out of anger and when I was doing it, it felt right but it was wrong."
When asked about previous tweets in her timeline referring to "African monkeys", Dos Santos replied: "I refer to myself as a monkey, my family as monkeys. I think what was written in my Tweets as 'African monkey' was taken out of context."
The SA Human Rights Commission said on its website that racist and discriminatory speech on social media could undermine social relations.
"Ms dos Santos' alleged remarks contribute to a disturbing pattern that seems to be taking place in the social media space, and has to be addressed.
"The commission is in the process of assessing all the complaints it has received and will afterwards communicate directly with all the parties."
Maimane said he would write a letter to the commission containing evidence about the matter. Several people submitted complaints about the two women to the commission.
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