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South African banker quits over Twitter race comment

Storyline:Business, World

A white South African banker has resigned over a tweet about race relations that prompted widespread outrage, his employer Standard Bank said.

Chris Hart suggested on Twitter in January that more than two decades of black majority rule had perpetuated poverty and entrenched a tendency to blame whites for all of the country’s ills.

The comment provoked a protest by mostly black youths outside Standard Bank’s downtown Johannesburg office. Hart was suspended, and the bank’s chief executive, Sim Tshabalala, described racism as a drag on the economy.

Hart apologized at the time and suggested the comment had been misunderstood when taken out of the context of other tweets.

In an interview with Talk Radio 702 on Tuesday, Hart denied racism. “Chris Hart I don’t believe is a racist, because I do believe I’ve got respect, I don’t look down at people because of their race,” he said.

In a statement, the bank said: “Chris Hart, an Investment Strategist at Standard Bank Wealth and Investment, has resigned and has left the employ of the bank.”

The episode highlighted how racial tensions simmer in Africa’s most industrialized economy more than two decades after the end of white minority rule under apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela as the country’s first black president.

Wealth and income gaps are still clearly visible along race lines, fuelling perceptions of white privilege.