Restaurant willing to talk, but no apologies for wanting to protect patrons

2013-05-03 00:00

IS it a case of kiss and make up following the incident at a Hillcrest restaurant, which led to accusations of racism by Dedani Mkhize, son of KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize?

On Tuesday night police were called to Oscars restaurant in Hillcrest when staff thought a patron was acting suspiciously. A panic button was pressed, which alerted a security company and a crime prevention organisation, which in turn alerted the police.

Yesterday, restaurant owner Andrew Calinikos said he stood by the decision to call the police and said it would have been irresponsible on his part not to have done so, given the crime wave currently being experienced in the Hillcrest area.

“There was an armed robbery two kilometres from here on the same evening,” he said. “We have to protect our patrons … there are children running up and down inside the restaurant.”

Since the incident, Calinikos has contacted Mkhize and invited him to meet him. “I telephoned him and he seemed okay with everything,” Calinikos said. “I asked him to please pop in and we can sit down and have a chat about it.

“I said he was welcome to come and see me — and he seemed okay with that,” said Calinikos. “We got on well and he seemed like a helluva nice guy. I’m sure we can settle it all.”

Dedani Mkhize said he was still thinking about whether to take up the invitation to meet. “I haven’t made up my mind yet; I will have a chat to my mum [Dr May Mashego-Mkhize] about it.”

The premier is currently in the UK.

“[Calinikos] was calm on the phone, but he didn’t know what to say,” said Mkhize, adding that he was also concerned that he had sent an e-mail to Oscars concerning the incident, but had not received a reply. “I only got a response when there was a story in the newspaper.”

Calinikos said he couldn’t apologise for the incident as the correct action was taken, given the circumstances.

“And I can’t apologise for what happened with the police and the security company as that was after he had left the restaurant.”

Mkhize left the restaurant when the police arrived and was confronted in the car park. He claims he was accused of stealing a vehicle, which was in fact his father’s car, and that a white female police officer had taken the registration number down incorrectly. “She kept harassing me,” he said.

Mkhize subsequently e-mailed The Witness about the incident and also voiced his feelings about it on Facebook.

According to Hillcrest police, no case was opened regarding the incident and they have not received any complaint.

Pietermaritzburg resident Russell Pillay was dining with his girlfriend, Theashni Gounden, at the restaurant on Tuesday evening. He said the incident must have happened after they left and he was stunned to read about it in the newspaper the next day.

“At the time we were there, we were the only people of colour in the restaurant, and at no point were we treated differently or felt the least out of place. I even commented to my girlfriend as to the great service they provided us with.”

• The Witness will run a selection of letters and comments about the issue on Monday.

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