‘Hammer and tongs’ and the consequences on social media

Last week’s storm in the Twitterverse of a video showing a naked man going at it hammer and tongs with a woman in a yellow dress atop a desk in a Sandton office seems to have subsided.

Businessman Zahed Sibda last week publicly vowed to hunt down whoever had first posted the video – while denying it was him. This was reiterated by his lawyers this week who warned anyone who had reposted the videos and suggested that Sibda was the man in the window, could look forward to a civil suit and a criminal complaint.

The lawyers are spot on. If Sibda’s claims are correct – that it isn’t him in the video – then he has been desperately and cruelly defamed by nothing less than a mob. It’s the festering downside of the micro media site that many people are starting to realise: that it’s a cruel, cruel place where cyber bullies run amok with devastating consequences for their victims but none for those who post brazen lies and disinformation.

That’s starting to change, thanks to Penny Sparrow, Adam Catzavelos and Vicky Momberg. Eventually people are going to find to their cost that if you can’t say something to someone’s face, you certainly can’t utter it on another platform – especially not if it can be traced back to you. They’ll also re-learn the old legal maxim that repeating the slur makes you as guilty as the person who first said/ produced it (with certain narrow exceptions).

The good news is it couldn’t happen fast enough; the cess pit of spite and malice that is Twitter in particular, needs to be dredged and cleansed. The bad news for Sibda is that he might have an uphill battle on his hands proving that it isn’t him in the clip. When he was originally named, his first response was that the amorous assignation had occurred on the floor below his company’s offices. Now his lawyers are claiming that not only was Sibda not involved but the office in which the boardroom bonk took place isn’t even in the company’s building.

What does seem clear though from a cursory study of the clips posted on social media is that there appears to be two separate videos; the more viral one taken from a neighbouring building and slightly above, and another from ground level in front of a building which zooms into a blurry shot of a couple having sex in an office.

The two incidents don’t appear related at all, if so possibly two separate couples did it buck naked almost hard up against a plate glass window – with the light on in the office while it was dark outside. Was the urge so great that they threw caution to the wind? Or was this just brazen exhibitionism? Whatever the case, they can’t exactly claim invasion of privacy; they’re lucky the police aren’t probing them for public indecency.

For the rest of us, we’ve received a brand-new concept of rapacious capitalism in Africa’s richest square mile and – depending on your inclination – probably an aversion to wearing yellow dresses too.

Originally published on 15 February 2020 in the Saturday Star