Death threats made on Twitter can lead to criminal investigations, police said on Wednesday.
“They [anyone threatened] must open a case of intimidation,” said national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo.
However, he cautioned, that it was best if people first sought legal advice, as to whether the “content of the threat” could legitimately form the basis of a police investigation.
“They must take it and present it to a legal expert.”
Debate about the matter has arisen after race rows recently erupted on South African social media.
On Monday, a Pretoria-based Twitter user, going by the handle @LuckyMamakoko, and describing himself as a “Life coach”, “father” and “author” – amongst other titles – tweeted a comment in which he said he would kill the daughter of Penny Sparrow.
Sparrow, a KwaZulu-Natal estate agent, was lambasted, after posting a Facebook message last week in which she described black beachgoers as “monkeys”.
Subsequently, @LuckyMamakoko published various personal details of Sparrow’s, as well as a comment suggesting: “#PennySparrow Think is clever right, I will kill ur daughter” [sic]. The name of the daughter and the area where she lives, is then detailed.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said that while social media content could be used as evidence in court, each case would have to be looked at holistically.
A key issue would be to determine that the content had not been manipulated or tampered with in any way.
“They [police investigators] know how to secure that information, so that it can be admitted.”
Naidoo and Mfaku’s comments were not made in relation to any specific case.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a number of South Africans laid a criminal case of crimen injuria against Sparrow at the Hillbrow Police Station.
@LuckyMamakoko was also condemned on Twitter by users like @OllypopZA who tweeted: “You’re just like Penny.”