Mabel Jansen, who is the daughter of a former governor-general of South Africa during the apartheid years, sent the messages last May, and says she was trying to explain specific cases of sexual violence in a private context.
But the language she used was anything but specific.
"In [black people's] culture, a woman is there to pleasure them. Period," she wrote. "I still have to meet a black girl who was not raped at about 12. I am dead serious."
"The white people have a lot to account for. But this? I feel like vomiting," she continued. "So no – the black people are by far by far no angels. Their conduct is despicable."
South Africa's Minister of Justice Michael Masutha placed Jansen on "special leave" on Wednesday, following a slew of complaints from all sides of the government, and from other judicial officials.
Both the African National Congress, which has been in power since white minority rule ended in 1994, and the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, condemned the outburst. The ANC said it intends to tighten anti-racism laws. According to Agence France-Presse, the women's league of the party stated that Jansen's "comments made on Facebook where she claims that the rape of young children is part of black culture, are purely racist and misrepresentation of facts about black culture,” and questioned whether Jansen would be able to deal fairly in court with rape cases.
Official statistics show that 43,195 rapes were reported in South Africa between April 2014 and March 2015, but most go unreported. South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape and violent crime of anywhere in the world.
The racial divides of apartheid also have been slow to dissolve, with most South Africans still living in neighborhoods that are de facto segregated, and the income gap between whites and blacks has only widened since the end of apartheid.
The uproar surrounding Jansen's comments has brought other aspects of her history to light. In a wide-ranging 2013 interview with the country's Judicial Services Commission, she repeatedly played down her grandfather's role in supporting apartheid, and claimed that her professional journey was almost as hard as any black South African's because she is a woman, going so far as to say that there is an "apartheid between men and women."
"I believe I know what hardship means," she said in the interview. "I know what it is to be in a disadvantaged position."