Richard Branson weighs in on Virgin racist attack
Cape Town – An incident of racism at the Morningside Virgin Active gym has become such a hot topic, that CEO of the entire Virgin group, Richard Branson has weighed in.
Branson left a note on Virgin Active SA’s Facebook page on Tuesday, saying: “We do not condone any form of discrimination at Virgin - especially racism.
“We are taking this incident extremely seriously and intend to look at all the facts to reach the right outcome for all parties concerned.”
Branson said that Ross Faragher-Thomas, Virgin Active South Africa’s managing director, was personally investigating the matter and was “meeting the two members... to make sure we look at the facts and are fair to everyone who is involved”.
The incident referred to involves Liz Hleza, 51, who says 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 at the gym.
“I have been to South Africa on many occasions and been inspired by the many wonderful people I have met there. As Jonathan Jansen said: ‘My South Africa is…often unseen, yet powered by the remarkable lives of ordinary people. It is the citizens who keep the country together through millions of acts of daily kindness,’” Branson said.
“We intend to get to the bottom of this incident and I want to repeat that we will not tolerate any form of prejudice.”
Virgin Active members reacted angrily on Twitter and Facebook, calling for the company to "do the right thing", after the offending member received a "final warning".
Hleza recounted how she thought that the man was going to hit her as 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.