News24

Outcry over gym group's response to racism

2012-02-06 19:09

Johannesburg - A muted response by gym group Virgin Active to a racist incident at its Morningside branch caused an outcry on social networks on Monday.

The woman, Liz Hleza, 51, told The Star newspaper that she was called a "bloody kaffir, a cockroach and a selfish bitch" by a man in her spinning class on December 31 after she continuously shouted "yebo" to the music and exercise.

"I was so scared and thought he was going to hit me, he was very angry. He said I should keep quiet and kept saying this bloody kaffir, you kaffir. He was pointing fingers at me. He said bloody cunt and that I was a selfish bitch.

"He also told me that I was born walking on four legs with a tail, and I should go back to the bushes where I belong and make that noise there.

After the class, Hleza went to the manager on duty to complain and when that manager called the man and his friend to her office, they refused to go.

The man, she said, swore at her again. "He said 'You bloody kaffir, you are a cockroach and next time I come to the gym I will bring Doom to spray you with'."

The woman was reportedly unhappy with the way Virgin's management handled the situation.

Virgin Active's Karen Gordon told The Star that the franchise did not tolerate discrimination and that "the member that allegedly misbehaved also received formal correspondence… which included a final warning".

'Not surprised'

Regarding the instructor’s failure to intervene, Gordon said he had claimed he had been unable to hear the verbal exchanges.

The man apologised on Saturday in a meeting convened by the club, and Hleza accepted the apology.

However, she said she wanted her story to be told "because… there are still people like that out there".

Twitter users such as Elana Williams said: "I train at this branch of VA. Unfortunately, I'm not surprised by anything I have read."

Victor Dlamini tweeted: "In the end they will have no choice but to do the right thing. They must terminate the membership of the bully."

On Virgin Active’s Facebook page, Lindiwe Thabethe, wrote: "I have very angry by the story on IOL about racism at Virgin Active. At this day and age we still get people who get away with racism. Virgin Active was supposed to solve the issue immediately and a final warning is definitely not the appropriate reaction. [sic]"

Comments
  • Trevor - 2012-02-06 19:22

    If she heard it then people around her must have heard it...problem in SA is someone calls you a racist and everyone jumps on the bandwagon and automatically assumes they must be a racist. It all does not add up to me, the woman CLAIMS the verbal assault, then complains, no witness's, the bloke apologises later but we not told for what, we just assume he must be guilty of everything he said...then she goes public after she accepts the apologie from him...???...this all stinks and we not getting the whole story...

      goyougoodthing - 2012-02-06 19:38

      Perhaps not, but no one should use that word, it's incredibly insensitive and has no place in SA. Calling her a c**t though, well, that's his extremely rude perspective but he is allowed an opinion. He should have had his membership revoked though if he did say it in front of the staff member.

  • Michael Iago Law - 2012-02-06 19:48

    IF the man said what he was accused of saying, that is something he should not have done, however, if the woman who "feared he was going to hit her" carried on doing what she was doing, knowing these comments were being passed at her, she was in turn provoking the situation which could have been avoided completely if she just stopped provoking. Also by her continuing to provoke the situation, that proves point plank that she did not actually fear that she was going to get hit, because if she did fear such an "assult" she would have either stopped immediately or would have at that said something to a staff member. She is just as much at fault as the man... It is people like her keeping racism alive in South Africa by provoking as she did and then still going public after the matter was resolved. Is she hoping for a sympathy vote or a hand out now?

      Ndurengo Maxzino Mncwabe - 2012-02-06 19:54

      WOW! So she's in the wrong here, according to you? If the man was annoyed, he could've made a much better choice of words!!!

      goyougoodthing - 2012-02-06 19:56

      Perhaps she was being a vindictive number, we all have to deal with people like that, still does not give him the right to use that word. It's basically hate speech to a black person. It doesn't mean that much to me, but then I was never persecuted.

      Honest Raymond Makoi - 2012-02-06 20:02

      So a women with a short skirt provoked a rapist... But now people r trying to make the k word seem as if its nothing but its always by someone who is used to using the word in their own lives! N the guy sayin sorry makes it better! What a chop u are!

      Michael Iago Law - 2012-02-06 22:38

      I didn't say the guy was right to say what he did nor did I say that apologising made it alright... I said that by the women accepting his apology and then still going further with it after that was wrong... By comparing what I said about her provoking him with a rapist is chalk and cheese, she was well aware of what she was doing and by carrying on with it, your comparison about a rapist is redundant. And if you read my comment carefully, you will see that I did not say either was right or wrong... They were both wrong but the fact that this matter was dealt with and settled privately and then still made public like this, that was wrong and therefore one must ask if the woman was looking for a sympathy vote or hand out... She provoked and he reacted in the wrong and inappropriate manner...

      javid.mayat - 2012-02-07 13:06

      All u guys saying the women is equally at fault seem to have a foot stuck in the past. How is it the ladies fault? If she was saying "Yes!! to the exercise would it have still been a problem, Instead of "Yebo"?! The thing is we are supposed to b tolerant of other peoples cultures, and it is obvious that alot of people who say they have progressed, clearly have not!! Also if a person throws racial slurs at you for you just being yourself( what ur culture defines you to be) are you to back down and not stand up for whats right??

      Michael Iago Law - 2012-02-07 14:14

      @javid.mayat?, it is not a question about culture at all... Culture was never mentioned once in the article or in my comment but now that you (very out of place) brought it up, does her culture dictate that she provoke and annoy other people around her who don't share the same culture? There is a time and a place for everything... If she was being loud and obnoxious, she is just as much at fault at the guy is... Neither was right, they were both wrong! End of.

      Michael Iago Law - 2012-02-07 14:27

      And @Jayson, comments such as that prove your ignorance and complete misinterpretation and lack of understanding of what I have been saying... Read slowly what I have written and maybe you will understand it then, but ignorance is no excuse for acting childish and pathetic...

  • markpaul0 - 2012-02-06 19:55

    I agree Trevor. And why is RACISM always the cry? Would it have been such a big deal if she was called fat? or blonde? or ugly? or hairy? or smelly? All those are prejudices but those things don't make news reports. I detest racism.. its such an unnecessary evil... but that does not mean it deserves all the attention it receives. By giving attention to racism, we empower racism.

      Honest Raymond Makoi - 2012-02-06 20:15

      Look at the history of the country... Its just a normal change in times of a country which comes from such a past but hopefully things will get better!

      andile.ngcobo - 2012-02-07 02:16

      @mark Not long ago in SA racial slurs were quickly followed by beatings, unlawful arrests, torture, forced removal etc. In some pockets of our country these things still happen. Its just silly to compare common, school yard name calling to racism

      Peter - 2012-02-07 09:10

      @andile.Now in SA racial slurs are quickly followed by brutal beatings,rape of women and female children,killing of all in the house and theft of valuables,firearms and vehicles.The murder of white people(farmers)exceeds all the requirements of GENOCIDE but nothing is said or done by the rest of the world.

      andile.ngcobo - 2012-02-07 18:52

      @Peter There is a difference bettween crime and genocide. The crime situatution in the country is horrible but calling it genocide is not helping, especially when the majority of the victims of the crime you mentioned are against black people. Have a look at farm murder stats and see how many more farm labours die than farm owners.

  • George - 2012-02-06 19:57

    Until the man comes out to clear his name, we assume the woman is right. It sounds like it happened. 51 years dont like the attention. it probably happened.

  • Ndurengo Maxzino Mncwabe - 2012-02-06 20:02

    It's so sad that there are people who see NOTHING wrong with the man's choice of words! With the way things are going, S.A will never get anywhere. No matter which government rules this country, if the people's minds are still in the gutter, we'll never have a decent country.

      Jayson - 2012-02-07 09:36

      its shocking to see that most people on this site are actually on the side of the racist degerate perpetrator

  • Lumko Ntshinka - 2012-02-06 20:06

    Stupid arrogant redneck should simply be thrown behind bars and the management be dealt with accordingly if these accusation are anything to go by, end of story, lets not turn this into another big buuhaaahaa racism nonsense, his views dont represent the majority of whites jus as Malemas views dont represent the rest of us young blacks.

      Jayson - 2012-02-07 09:36

      Bring him to me, I will sort him out...bash him up and rip his toungue out.

      Johan - 2012-02-07 14:48

      I hope you realize how deeply ironic your use of the term "Stupid arrogant redneck" is.

  • Ant - 2012-02-06 20:13

    THE BOTTOM LINE IS WE ALL NEED TO TAKE A CHILL PILL AND NOT BLOW THIS WAY OUT BUT IF HE DID CALL THE WOMAN THE K WORD THEN HE NEEDS TO MOVE OUT AND THEN LET HIM TRAIN IN SOWETO WERE THERES BIG MOTHERS AND THEN HE CAN TRY HIS LUCK THERE

  • Bokfan - 2012-02-06 20:23

    If the evidence indicates he said those things he should be prosecuted in law, not simply banned from the gym. BTW Virgin active is a "voluntary organisation" , to quote Big Cyril. So I say "ditch the rubbish"

  • Carlo Hayes - 2012-02-06 20:39

    Ag please man what's the big deal?? I've been called a white bast@rd so many times I've lost count. I don't run to the press every time it happens. Racism is alive and kicking in the world and no one is gonna stop it. Both whites and black are equally guilty, just stop pointing fingers and move on with your own lives!

  • Ashley - 2012-02-06 20:44

    I cannot believe that in this day and age people can be so rude and disrespectful

      Guy - 2012-02-06 21:39

      You mean like shouting out "YEBO!!!!" in an aerobic class? While other people are trying to enjoy the music and to concentrate on their exercises? While the man's choice of words may be inappropriate, I can understand his feelings. I get the same feelings when a taxi drives past my house and I can't hold a conversation because of the load music beats coming from the taxi.

  • cruywagen - 2012-02-06 21:06

    I think the manager should be fired. Does he not know how clients should be treated? What type of staff is Virgin Active employing that they are unable to deal with people that have no respect for others or themselves. A written warning for the member is the best they could do? I apologize on behalf of all the people that still discriminate and hope that Liz does not lose faith in the people who does not see colour or status, but value people for who they are. Shocking story!

  • Brian - 2012-02-06 21:27

    I cannot believe that people still talk like this to others after all we've been through - and are still going through. Well I believe he said it but I shake my head. He must be brought to court and pay at least a R20000 fine to the Mandela Childrens fund or some other charity. And if he doesn't have the cash, deduct from his salary. If it's not racism - then I don't know what is - then it's criminem injuria. One simply does not talk to anyone like that, least of all a woman. People have no respect any more... wow..

  • Brian - 2012-02-06 21:32

    I don't mind being called a boere - describe the word boer to me - then describe the other word (I won't even mention it here) in context now! There's just no comparison. R 20 to R50000 fine if you call someone that. If people won't learn - they must be made to learn! One or two fines, you won't hear that word again...

      Peter - 2012-02-07 09:31

      Idiot.

  • Michael Iago Law - 2012-02-06 23:02

    IF the man said what he was accused of saying, that is something he should not have done, however, if the woman who "feared he was going to hit her" carried on doing what she was doing, knowing these comments were being passed at her, she was in turn provoking the situation which could have been avoided completely if she just stopped provoking. Also by her continuing to provoke the situation, that proves point plank that she did not actually fear that she was going to get hit, because if she did fear such an "assult" she would have either stopped immediately or would have at that said something to a staff member. She is just as much at fault as the man... It is people like her keeping racism alive in South Africa by provoking as she did and then still going public after the matter was resolved. Is she hoping for a sympathy vote or a hand out now? Ndurengo Maxzino Mncwabe?2012/02/06 07:54:03 PM WOW! So she's in the wrong here, according to you? If the man was annoyed, he could've made a much better choice of words!!! goyougoodthing?2012/02/06 07:56:51 PM Perhaps she was being a vindictive number, we all have to deal with people like that, still does not give him the right to use that word. It's basically hate speech to a black person. It doesn't mean that much to me, but then I was never persecuted Honest Raymond Makoi?2012/02/06 08:02:40 PM So a women with a short skirt provoked a rapist... But now people r trying to make the k word seem as if its nothing but its always by someone who is used to using the word in their own lives! N the guy sayin sorry makes it better! What a chop u are Michael Iago Law?2012/02/06 10:38:15 PM I didn't say the guy was right to say what he did nor did I say that apologising made it alright... I said that by the women accepting his apology and then still going further with it after that was wrong... By comparing what I said about her provoking him with a rapist is chalk and cheese, she was well aware of what she was doing and by carrying on with it, your comparison about a rapist is redundant. And if you read my comment carefully, you will see that I did not say either was right or wrong... They were both wrong but the fact that this matter was dealt with and settled privately and then still made public like this, that was wrong and therefore one must ask if the woman was looking for a sympathy vote or hand out... She provoked and he reacted in the wrong and inappropriate manner... And lastly, the amount of times a white person gets called a derogatory term, we carry on and move on, why do blacks constantly throw the racist card at everything and make a scene? Is it for handouts, sympathy, publicity?

  • Karla - 2012-02-06 23:08

    I am completely gobsmacked that this type of behaviour exists in this day and age. There is absolutely no place for it in our society or any society in the world for that matter. And as for a final warning? What utter rubbish!!! Come on Virgin Active, surely you guys can do better than that! That "man" should have been kicked out of there on his ass! I am too disgusted for words!

      Russan - 2012-02-07 16:51

      Hmmm, living in South Africa stop being lace window modest, racism is ALIVE and well in SA

  • andile.ngcobo - 2012-02-07 02:28

    A lot of the people commenting here are missing the point here. The story is not about a racial attack that happened over a month ago, I've been racially attacked in similar fashion 3 or 4 times in recent years, it happens every day with no news reports. This story is about how the management of this particular branch of Virgin Active SA responded to the incident. Don't believe me? Read the headline

      Michael Iago Law - 2012-02-07 06:06

      outcry over gym group"s "RESPONSE TO RACISM" this article definitely is about a racial attack purely because that is what the women turned it into

      Peter - 2012-02-07 09:34

      @Michael. 100% agree.

      andile.ngcobo - 2012-02-07 18:42

      @micheal & Peter How did she do that? either the 2 of you are really stupid, racist or know something about this story thats not in the article. So, how does one make one go about turning run-of-the-mill verbal abuse into racism

      Michael Iago Law - 2012-02-07 19:47

      @andile.ngcobo you answered your own question... It was ordinary every day run of the mill verbal abuse... She turned it into a race issue by firstly taking the matter further to the press even after she categorically stated she accepted the guys apology and then by calling it "racial" in the headline... She is an instigator by doing this and she provoked the whole incident by continuing what she was doing in the class. She knew it was causing the guy to do what she did and yet carried on, that is provoking. She also lied when she said that she feared she was going to get hit by the guy, because if she truly feared she was going to get hit, she would have stopped immediately to prevent it instead of continuing and she would have also said something there and then to the instructor that she "felt in danger" that is why one can deduce she provoked more than necessary...

      andile.ngcobo - 2012-02-08 10:15

      @micheal stupid it is then

  • Helio Alvaro De Abreu - 2012-02-07 07:42

    I also gym and although I would never throw a racist comment at noisy grunters and screamers, sometime I wish I could throw a very heavy weight in their direction. Most of the grunters and screamers are the big body builders. They are just selfish, or just cannot control their screams of death in other people's ears. At least most people have a good laugh behind their back. One guy was natourious for making very strange sounds and the entire gym assumed things about his bedroom manners. The screamers make gyming a funny experience.

  • Fenderbender - 2012-02-07 08:43

    She clearly did not respect her fellow trainers by having an 'orgasm' in a room full of tired people training. It goes both ways.

  • Russan - 2012-02-07 16:47

    TIME for ACTION VIRGIN ACTIVE... we are watching your response. A bully list, memebership cancelled letter with cancelled points. How does a 1st World company sort this out.

      Rupert - 2012-02-08 10:15

      Moral of the story boy's and girs, if a person of color accuses you of Racisim ....DO NOT APPOLOGIZE!!!!!!.....They take it as an admission of guilt and a ticket for retribution ...even AFTER accepting the appology......

  • Russell - 2012-02-08 06:46

    They will complain till the next coming of christ.

      Rupert - 2012-02-08 10:00

      ....and then start complaining to Him ....HAHA

  • Rupert - 2012-02-08 09:59

    she got no freebees after the sorry....working for some milage now .......tipical previosly disadvantaged mentality.....

  • emmanuel.matsaudi1 - 2012-04-07 16:37

    To be honest white people think there are better than blacks,they always undermine us blacks, that's why some presidents ban them from their countries is because their mentality they have..i so wish 1 day they can do this to Malema,he will tell them way to get-off, I am deeply hurted after i read that story...is better they change their attitudes towards blacks..

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