Puppet Appears in Court in South Africa's Twitter War

Puppet Appears in Court in South Africa's Twitter War
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A popular South African ventriloquist sat with his puppet in court Thursday to fight a gag order preventing him from tagging on Twitter an Afrikaner singer he criticises as racist.

Conrad Koch, whose dark-skinned puppet goes by the stage name "Chester Missing", is challenging a court order blocking him from "harassing" Steve Hofmeyr.

Koch's criticism of Hofmeyr followed a tweet by the popular singer which said: "Sorry to offend but in my books Blacks were the architects of Apartheid. Go figure."

That sparked outrage on social media networks but gained support among the far right.

Koch then challenged Hofmeyr online and criticised businesses which sponsored him and his concerts.

Earlier this month, the singer obtained a court order to stop Koch from threatening, harassing, or making defamatory statements about him.

The comedian was also not allowed to tag Hofmeyr on social media or mention him in television and radio interviews.

Koch appeared at the Randburg Magistrate Court with his puppet in tow in a first-of-its-kind case in South Africa.

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Hofmeyr did not show up but a fellow far right activist argued on his behalf that the singer's tweet was not offensive.

"Hofmeyr contends that everyone who participated in the pre-1994 South Africa... is jointly responsible for apartheid, regardless of colour," said Dan Roodt.

He said Hofmeyr suffered psychological and financial harm as a result of Koch's tweets.

Koch's lawyers argued that Hofmeyr wanted to be allowed to express racist views unchallenged.

Hofmeyr is one of South Africa's top recording artists but is increasingly known for his divisive comments. He has recently taken to singing the national anthem of the former apartheid government during performances.

Koch, who has a large social media following and features on a weekly television comedy show, has also faced online criticism for using a dark-skinned puppet in his act.

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