CASE NO: CA 165/2008
In the matter between
MIETA M RYAN Appellant

I turn then to consider the words uttered by defendant. It will be convenient to commence with the use of the highly offensive word “kaffir”.
As far back as 1976 James JP in Ciliza v Minister of Police and Another 1976 (4) SA 243 (N), after having referred to various dictionary definitions of the word, stated at 247H:
It follows that in my opinion one of the recognised meanings which the word ‘Kaffir’ now bears in South Africa is that such a person is uncivilised, uncouth and coarse and that if one calls a person a ‘Kaffir’ this will in certain circumstances constitute an iniuria.
In that matter a white policeman had used the word in addressing the plaintiff, who was a black man. Plaintiff was awarded the sum of R150,00 as damages.
In Mbatha v Van Staden 1982 (2) SA 260 (N) the plaintiff, a black man, sued the defendant, a white man, for iniuria after the defendant had repeatedly called him a “kaffir” and assaulted him. At 262 H – 263A Didcott J stated as follows:
The tirade’s worst feature was the use of the epithet ‘kaffer’. Such alone can amount today to an actionable wrong, according to the decision of the Full Bench here in Ciliza v Minister of Police and Another 1976 (4) SA 243 (N). Everything depends, of course, on the context in which the word is uttered. Settings which make it innocuous can no doubt be imagined. Ordinarily, however, that is not the case when, in South Africa nowadays, a Black man or woman is called a ‘kaffer’ by somebody of another race. Then, as a rule, the term is a derogatory and contemptuous one. With much the same ring as the word ‘nigger’ in the United States, it disparages the Black race and the person concerned as a member of that race. It is deeply offensive to blacks. Just about everyone knows that by now. The intention to offend can therefore be taken for granted, on most occasions at any rate.
The plaintiff was awarded the sum of R2 000,00 as damages.