SAHRC probes second racism toilet claim

By Drum Digital
13 November 2014

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has launched an investigation into another toilet segregation allegation, this time at an animal clinic in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo.

"I can confirm that the SAHRC is investigating these new allegations," commission spokesman Isaac Mangena said on Thursday.

"We dispatched a team of investigators to the place yesterday [Wednesday] where we spoke to the parties involved."

The Sowetan newspaper reported on Wednesday that the Blouberg Animal Clinic had separate toilets for whites and blacks.

The clinic is located in the same area as the Vleissentraal office block, which came under fire last week after claims of toilet racism.

Three sources at the animal clinic were quoted as telling the newspaper it had four toilets -- one for black staffers and black customers, and three for white staff and white customers.

A Sowetan journalist reportedly used the toilet reserved for black people and found it was located outside and behind the main building, while the toilets for whites were inside the building.

According to the newspaper, veterinarian Freddie Harris, who co-owns the clinic, declined to comment.

He could not be reached for comment by Sapa.

Mangena said the allegations at the clinic were true.

"We do confirm that these very unfortunate allegations are true and this matter will now be the subject of our investigation."

The SAHRC is already investigating the Vleissentraal racism claims, which the Sowetan reported on last week.

It warned that it will approach the Equality Court if the building's owner Bennie van der Merwe does not co-operate.

Van der Merwe opened a case of defamation against the Sowetan last Wednesday.

"The allegations are not true. The newspaper didn't even consult us. They didn't phone us for comment," he told Sapa.

He also took issue with the newspaper's "whites only" headline.

Van der Merwe said a case of intimidation was also opened with the police after the building's manager received threatening text messages purporting to be from the Economic Freedom Fighters.

"We received threatening smses from an EFF member who threatened to burn our building, but the EFF claims it's not from them," Van der Merwe said at the time.

The SAHRC and Van der Merwe met this week.

"We received submissions from the owner, who visited the commission's office in Polokwane to give his side of the story yesterday [Wednesday]," said Mangena.

"We can't divulge the content of his submission at this stage," he said.

-SAPA

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