'Forgive Chris Brown and move on'

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.
Grammy Award winning artist Chris Brown performing in Johannesburg on Thursday night at the Coca Cola Dome. Photo by Lucky Morajane
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.

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.

In 2009 Malema told students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology the woman who had accused President Jacob Zuma of rape in 2005 "had a nice time", adding: “when a woman didn’t enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money.”

Sonke Gender Justice laid the hate speech charge and Botha testified at the trial, after which Malema was ordered to apologise publicly, which he did, and pay R50 000 to a centre for abused women, which he eventually did after several delays.

At the time, Botha welcomed the apology but lamented the long time it took for the donation to reach People Opposed to Women Abuse.

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.

The DA in KwaZulu-Natal last week objected at a council meeting in Ethekwini to Brown's X show at the Moses Mabhida stadium for two reasons: the assault, and because the Ethekwini metro would contribute R700 000 towards the costs of his appearance at the stadium in the coastal city on Friday.

The city’s DA ward 35 councillor Heinz de Boer said the party had tried to prevent the city spending money on the tour at a council vote, but it was passed with the African National Congress majority in the council voting in favour of it.

De Boer told Channel24: “Firstly, we believe the city should not pay the R700 000 towards the hosting of the concert. The city is really cash strapped at the moment, and we cannot afford to spend this amount of money on a concert when we still have such a massive infrastructure backlog. We would rather have seen the money go towards community tourism organisations, for example.”

He was also “baffled” by why the city had to pay when Brown was wealthy enough to pay the costs himself.

According to promotions material for the show a Golden Circle ticket costs R1100 and general access R690 for Breezy's concert to promote his sixth studio album at the 15 000 seater stadium with guest artist August Alsina who hails from New Orleans.

“Secondly," continued De Boer, Chris Brown has an atrocious track record of violence. It's a matter of record that he assaulted his former girlfriend Rihanna, and has been implicated in several other violent incidents. As the DA we believe it's hypocritical of the city to spend so much money and effort on 16 days of activism against women and child abuse, then welcome with open arms Chris Brown."

Ethekwini spokesman Thabo Mofokeng told The Mercury earlier that it was a contribution towards marketing because the international publicity would benefit the city.

Netshipise confirmed the arrangement and said the Ethekwini council had entered into this arrangement before because it wanted to attract events like the Brown concert to the city, and to attract visitors to the city, especially over the Easter weekend - one of its busiest periods.

The money goes towards promotional material and accommodation, he said.

They did not have the same agreement with the City of Johannesburg.

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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