The Citizen has spoken to an old friend of Stephan Smith, who claims that the man she knew would never have been capable of the kind of racial hatred that was expressed in posts linked to his name on Sunday.
The woman, who asked for her name to be withheld as she was not interested in media attention, told The Citizen that she had seen the things Smith had supposedly written to people on Facebook, including that Oscar Pistorius had not shot “a k****r” behind his bathroom door, but Reeva Steenkamp, and that Jesus was a k****r. He also called another user he was interacting with the k-word.
READ: ‘Your Jesus is a k****r’
She said: “He was never like this. I was shocked to see the story on Facebook. He always supported me with my fight against abuse. Honestly, he’s a fantastic man.”
She said the man she had been friends with had always been polite to everyone he spoke to. She said that she had lost contact with him “five years ago” and no longer knew where he was. She also claimed that, in her opinion, the photos of him on Facebook were old. She said that the photos showed a man no older than 35, the age at which she said she “lost contact” with him.
When asked what Smith – whose profile on Facebook claimed he was rich enough to retire at 40 and live in Houghton – used to do for a living, the woman said that she could not remember.
The Citizen found the woman by looking at the people he had listed as friends and asking them for responses on Smith.
“Personally, I think this is someone trying to get revenge on him. To destroy his name. I don’t know why.
“I remember his ex-wife took him to the cleaners during their divorce and it was very hard for him.
“So I think someone has stolen his identity. I don’t even know if he’s alive any more or in South Africa.”
When asked what the motivation would be for someone to do this, she could not say, but she speculated that it had something to do with scammers using fake identities online to get money out of people. She asked whether the story about him had perhaps been sold to The Citizen, but she was told that we do not pay people for stories, as that is this website’s strict editorial policy.
“Well, I don’t know, really.” She reiterated that the Stephan Smith she had known had not been an atheist, nor a racist. She said that in her own area of work she never discriminated on the basis of race and would not want to be friends with someone who did.
“This whole thing has been blown out of proportion.”
The Citizen has still not been able to make contact with Smith to ask him for his side of the story, or whether it is true that someone “stole his identity” in order to troll people.