Twittercide: Std Bank suspends its economist Chris Hart over “racist” tweet

Twitter is a marvelous invention, allowing anyone to express their opinions on any subject. But it is also proving to be career limiting for professional pundits, even when they comment on subjects outside their circle of competence. Like Canadian sportscaster Damian Goddard who got canned after going onto Twitter to criticize same sex marriage. But the most dangerous of all – except, it seems, for US Presidential candidate Donald Trump – is racism. The recent case of politician Diane Kohler-Barnard mindlessly re-tweeting a dodgy statement praising Apartheid President PW Botha almost cost the DA firebrand her job. A couple years ago, an idiotic tweet about Aids in Africa by New York-based communications director Justine Sacco gave her overnight notoriety and a rapidly issued pink slip. Now Standard Bank’s outspoken economist Chris Hart is reaping a similar whirlwind after an opinionated tweet went viral. Even though he has unreservedly apologized, Hart’s chances of keeping his job appear bleak after he was suspended in a disciplinary hearing yesterday. – Alec Hogg 

Hart's page on twitterBy Alec Hogg

Being a celebrity on Twitter is a double edged sword as outspoken economist Chris Hart discovered after one of his tweets led to a suspension yesterday by his employer, Standard Bank. Hart is the Global Investment Strategist at the group’s Wealth and Investment division.

He was whiling away what for most of South Africa was a lazy Sunday afternoon, when he opined to almost 21 000 followers that “More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities.”

The comment generated a lot of heat and after four hours of debate in the twittersphere, the economist said he never meant to cause offense “for which I apologize wholeheartedly.” Hart’s profile on Twitter clearly states he works in a senior position at Standard Bank.

The apology did not resonate with the bank, which held a disciplinary hearing yesterday and put Hart onto immediate suspension.

The bank issued a statement re-iterating its values and code of ethics and did its utmost to distance itself from Hart’s comments, saying they were “factually incorrect, make inappropriate assumptions about South Africa and have racist undertones. We expect our colleagues in every country to at all time reflect the values of Standard Bank Group.”

Hart, a prolific media commentator, has long been an outspoken critic of the ruling ANC’s economic policies.

Chris Hart's tweets