Virgin Active defends brand in racism row
Johannesburg - Two complaints of racism at Virgin Active gyms in Johannesburg have been dealt with, Virgin Active SA said on Tuesday.
"I have taken personal responsibility to review the facts and whether any further course of action is required," managing director Ross Faragher-Thomas said in a statement.
"I am satisfied that Virgin Active SA dealt with the incident as expeditiously as possible, also recognising the seriousness of the altercation and the priority it deserved,"
On Tuesday, Independent Online reported that Lesley Mofokeng laid a criminal charge after he was insulted at Sunninghill Virgin Active, in northern Johannesburg.
A fellow gym member called Mofokeng a "boy" and accused him of "hogging the equipment".
Mofokeng said: "The guy came and started shouting and said, ‘You black guys take everything. We know this is your fucking country, but you do not have to control everything."
The Star newspaper reported on Monday that a patron of Virgin Active Morningside, in Sandton, was racially insulted by another patron during a spinning class on December 31.
Liz Hleza said the man appeared enraged because she shouted "yebo" in her enthusiasm for the music and the 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," Hleza said.
She said at the time she was dissatisfied with the gym's handling of the matter.
Faragher-Thomas said Virgin Active assigned four staff members to look into the complaints. The general manager was also involved in efforts to resolve the altercations.
The incident at the Morningside gym was being reinvestigated and he had spoken personally to Mofokeng about his experience.
"We always take appropriate action in the event of any member misconduct."
He said members had been suspended in the past for inappropriate conduct, and that the company had a zero tolerance approach to discrimination by its members.
Founder and chief executive of the Virgin group Richard Branson commented on the issue on Virgin Active SA's Facebook page, News24 reported.
"We do not condone any form of discrimination at Virgin - especially racism," he said.
He said Virgin was taking the complaints "extremely seriously".
"[We] intend to look at all the facts to reach the right outcome for all parties concerned," Branson wrote.