Racist abuse at posh Jo’burg bar

2008-09-05 00:00

KwaZulu-Natal is a friendly and multi-cultural province compared to Gauteng, a journalist who was allegedly called a k****r told Weekend Witness yesterday. “Jo’burg is a fragile place; people tiptoe around each other and there is no way you’ll know when you’ve offended someone,” Times journalist Gabisile Ndebele told Weekend Witness.

Ndebele, who graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal with a BA in Media Studies in 2006, was at the receiving end of a racial incident in Johannesburg last week. This comes after reports that a black business woman was called a k****r during last weekend’s Springbok clash with Australia.

“The word ‘k****r’ takes us back to that moment when we were not respected,” Ndebele says.

“We don’t need to be reminded that we belong to a different race group.”

Ndebele said she was called the highly racist term at the FTV bar in Sandton last Thursday, during an evening out with other journalists from the Times and Talk Radio 702. “We had been to the fashion week show and then went and had a civilised meal,” Ndebele said. “After that we decided to go to FTV Sandton to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

“When the incident took place the only thing we had drunk was a bottle of champagne, which we had shared among the six of us,” she said by phone.

“We asked for another bottle, but then this manager came down the stairs swearing at us and started manhandling Nadia [Neophytou, from Talk Show 702],” she said. Apparently the table was reserved for another group of patrons, one of whom shouted, repeatedly: “Get the f**k off my table you k****r”.

“The manager condoned the customer’s behaviour and actually said, ‘ja, get the f**k out of here’,” says Ndebele. “I was scared. They were big men and we were smaller women. I tried to get his name, but no one would tell me.”

Times fashion reporter Craig Jacobs started a Facebook group dedicated to reports of racism at the FTV bar after hearing about Ndebele’s incident.

“During Fashion Week last week I was insulted by the door staff … and physically pushed out of the way,” Jacobs writes by way of introducing the group. “I really thought that was an isolated incident until a friend of mine got similar treatment a little later that evening.”

The group has attracted a lot of attention and FTV’s marketing manager, Lorinda Voges, joined the group to try and do damage control. “We would like to make everyone aware of the fact that each comment is being forwarded to FTV’s directors and we are dealing with the FTV Sandton owner and managers directly,” she wrote.

“We are now waiting for Gabi to point out to us who the manager was that allowed all of this to take place so we can take the necessary action — until we hear from her, we cannot take action regarding this specific situation.”

Ndebele says FTV sent them two pictures via e-mail from the video footage of the evening and they could not see the culprit. “I would rather they meet with us all to point the guy out of a line-up because the pictures are dark,” she said.

The SA Human Rights Commission condemned the incident. It said in a statement: “While laudable work has been done to achieve social transformation, people continue to be victimised on the basis of their race, sexual orientation, gender etc. This further proves that racial intolerance, negative racial perceptions and racial slurs are still part of our society.

“It is clear that while legislation has gone a long way in dismantling institutionalised discrimination, more work needs to be done to address various forms of subliminal racism.”

The commission said it has launched a nationwide dialogue on constitutional values to address such challenges and “urges community members and community-based organisations to participate when the dialogues are brought to provincial venues closer to them during the course of the year”.

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