'I am not the same person I was 17 months ago': Adam Catzavelos

Adam Catzavelos, right, at a previous court appearance. He says he is a better person since undergoing community service at the Seth Mazibuko Foundation.
Adam Catzavelos, right, at a previous court appearance. He says he is a better person since undergoing community service at the Seth Mazibuko Foundation.
Image: Ernest Mabuza

Johannesburg businessman Adam Catzavelos told the Randburg magistrate's court on Thursday that the k-word gives him “chills” and makes him “uncomfortable”.

Catzavelos pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, crimen injuria for racist comments in December 2019. He gained infamy when a video he recorded on a holiday in Greece went viral after he bragged that there was not a single “k****r in sight” at the beach. In his plea, Catzavelos admitted to using the offensive word and that it impaired the dignity of others.

Taking the stand on Thursday during sentencing proceedings, Catzavelos told the court that he regretted his actions. He repeatedly said he was sorry for having used the k-word.

“I acknowledge what I've done and the harm it's caused. I'm deeply remorseful for what I did. I apologise sincerely. Never again will I be insensitive,” Catzavelos said.

He described taking the video as “disgusting” and something he would never do again.

“What I did that day was the most disgusting thing I've ever done. I'm deeply ashamed of what I did.”

He read out an apology he said he had written with the help of his legal team.

Prosecutor Dinesh Nandkissor said the apology was not genuine and was “polished” to make him look better.

Asked how he felt when he realised that the video had upset a lot of people, Catzavelos said: “I felt terrible.”

He said he had, since undergoing community service at the Seth Mazibuko Foundation, become a “better person”.

In August 2019, Catzavelos agreed in the Equality Court to perform 160 hours of community service at the Soweto-based community organisation and to pay a fine of R150,000, which was to be given to the foundation.

On Thursday, he said: “If I look back, I don't regret what I did in that I became a better person. I've grown as a person. I'm a much nicer person than I was.

“I'm definitely not the same person I was 17 months ago,” Catzavelos said.

He said he might have felt superior to black people at the time of recording the video.

“I acknowledge the way I was thinking was incorrect.”

Catzavelos said he was an “angry” person, who had “various” things happening in his life, when he recorded the video.

He could not explain to magistrate Hleziphe Mkhasibe where he had learnt to use the k-word, except to say that it was commonly used in SA.

Mkhasibe also asked him what the use of the k-word made him realise about himself. “It made me realise that I was living out of my ego and not being my true self,” he replied.

Catzavelos said he did not tolerate the use of the k-word any more because he had realised it was “derogatory”.

“Any form of stereotype gives me chills and makes me uncomfortable,” he told the court.

The case continues.

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