South African ventriloquist challenging gag order on his puppet
Conrad Koch poses at his home in Cape Town, South Africa, on Nov. 10, 2014. (AP / Schalk van Zuydam)
Lynsey Chutel, The Associated Press
Published Monday, November 10, 2014 9:17AM EST
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A South African ventriloquist said Monday that he will challenge a gag order against his puppet.
Comedian Conrad Koch said he strongly denies allegations made by musician Steve Hofmeyr that tweets criticizing the singer amounted to hate speech. Hofmeyr said he had obtained a court order barring the satirist and his puppet, Chester Missing, from making any statements about him in public or on social media.
Koch said he would not comment directly on Hofmeyr's protection order, "out of respect for court processes."
"I don't admit to the allegations and will be opposing them strongly, very strongly," said Koch. The case will be heard in a Johannesburg magistrate's court on Nov. 27, according to a statement from Hofmeyr.
Hofmeyr was reacting to a series of tweets from the puppet's twitter account criticizing the singer for what he described as racism. Hofmeyr tweeted to about 121,000 followers on Nov. 3 that the ruling African National Congress is victimizing white South Africans. In a related Facebook statement where he discussed the merits of segregation, Hofmeyr wrote: "Apartheid was cruel, unfortunate and unsustainable, but WHAT inspired that maddening segregation?"
In response, Koch began a campaign calling on sponsors to remove their support from the singer and asking South Africans to boycott any commercial brand associated with the singer. A local car dealership said they removed Hofmeyr'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.
Koch and his popular puppet, known for controversial political commentary, still perform on South African television and on stage but the comedian said the order has affected his act.
"I do feel like I'm cautious about what I say," said Koch. "I talk about race and culture all the time."
Koch, who has a master's degree in social anthropology, also writes a blog in which he regularly discusses the consequences of South Africa's racially segregated past.
The incident has made national news headlines for several days in South Africa, where race remains a sensitive subject.