S African puppet gagged for ‘hate speech’

Court order bans puppet Chester Missing from making public statements about singer Steve Hofmeyr over ‘hateful’ tweets.

A court order has barred the ventriloquist and his puppet from making public statements about Steve Hofmeyr [AP]

South Africa’s favourite puppet Chester Missing has been gagged by a court order.

Missing, a familiar face on South African television, and known for asking the country’s politicians daring questions, was gagged on Monday by a court order filed by white singer Steve Hofmeyr for offensive tweets.

The singer said the tweets, which came from the Twitter account of the puppet, accused him of racism.

He said he obtained a court order barring the ventriloquist Conrad Koch and his puppet from making any statements about him in public or on social media.

“I don’t admit to the allegations and will be opposing them strongly, very strongly,” Missing said. The case will be heard in a Johannesburg magistrate’s court on November 27, according to a statement from the singer.

Comedian Koch, who is the ventriloquist for Missing, denies allegations that tweets criticising the singer Steve Hofmeyr amount to hate speech and said he will fight the gag order against his puppet in court.

The ventriloquist said he would not comment directly on the order, “out of respect for court processes”.


Hofmeyr, a controversial figure in South Africa, had tweeted to about 121,000 followers on November 3 that the ruling African National Congress was victimising white South Africans.

In a related Facebook statement where he discussed the merits of segregation under apartheid, the singer wrote:

“Apartheid was cruel, unfortunate and unsustainable, but WHAT inspired that maddening segregation?”

In response, the ventriloquist began a campaign calling on sponsors to remove their support from the singer and asking South Africans to boycott any commercial brand associated with him.

A local car dealership said it removed the singer’s sponsored car.

One of South Africa’s largest supermarket chains said in a statement that while it “rejects Steve Hofmeyr’s comments on apartheid,” it will not revoke sponsorship of a festival where Hofmeyr is to perform.

The ventriloquist and his popular puppet, known for controversial political commentary, still perform on South African television and on stage. 

Nevertheless, he said the court order has affected his act.

“I do feel like I’m cautious about what I say,” he said.  “I talk about race and culture all the time.”

Koch, himself has been the subject of criticism and ridicule, with some critics arguing his act puppet act amounted to ‘blackface’.

It is an allegation Koch has repeatedly denied.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies