Woman arrested for racist gym outburst
Jonathan Erasmus, The Witness
Richards Bay - A woman spent a night in jail after she allegedly used a racial slur against a black man at a gym - an accusation the accused allegedly doesn’t deny and for which she has already apologised.
Ashika Ramdeen, 39, appeared in court in Richards Bay on Thursday after the incident at the Virgin Active gym in the North Coast town on Wednesday evening.
The incident happened after the victim, a local lawyer, told Ramdeen she had jumped the queue at the super circuit, which involves doing a series of exercises in a particular order using specific equipment in a short amount of time.
According to the victim, Jabulani Cebekhulu, 34, Ramdeen wasn’t following commonly accepted circuit protocol.
“There is a procedure on the super circuit. [The accused] had jumped the queue. I asked her to move as it was my turn to use a machine she was seated at, but she refused and said it was ‘her right’ to use what and when she liked. She eventually said 'Kaffirs will always be kaffirs', to which I responded: ‘Why are you racially abusing me, why are you calling me a kaffir?'."
He alleged she replied “You stupid kaffir”, and then walked off.
“I went straight to the police and laid a charge. It was only when I got home that I realised how much the incident had affected me; I couldn’t sleep. I was so angry. We are trying to build this country. We cannot accept this type of behaviour,” said Cebekhulu.
Ramdeen, who works for Exxaro KZN Sands, a subsidiary of Exxaro Group, which is South Africa’s largest BEE mining conglomerate, was arrested outside the gym shortly afterwards and held overnight. She is facing a charge of crimen injuria.
Ramdeen’s husband, Nakesh, said his wife was aware of what she had said and that she was deeply apologetic.
“My wife is suffering from stress, has recently developed a heart condition, has diabetes and is on a lot of medication, including anti-depressants. She can only use certain equipment at the gym because of her condition and is suffering from post-traumatic stress. She hasn’t gone to work in three weeks.
“What she said was completely out of character. She is sorry. We have lived in Zululand for 23 years and we love it here. She is certainly not a racist. We have friends from various racial groups,” said Nakesh.
Virgin Active said in a statement Ramdeen’s contract had been suspended with immediate effect.
Other racist incidents
Managing director of Virgin Active in South Africa, Ross Faragher-Thomas, said disputes between members were treated very seriously.
“We are committed to creating a safe and supportive environment for all our members. In the event of any member’s misconduct a hearing is called which could, and has in the past, resulted in members being suspended or expelled.”
Faragher-Thomas said the Richards Bay incident was reported to the manager on duty immediately and both members attended a meeting at the club where Ramdeen apparently made an apology.
The court matter has been postponed to March 14 for further investigation as two more statements are necessary from employees of the gym group.
Virgin Active has already been required to extinguish two racial incidents this year, both in Gauteng and involving white men. On December 31 a black woman was allegedly called “a bloody kaffir” at its Sandton gym and in February a black man was called a “boy” and told that black people shouldn’t try to control everything at the Sunninghill gym.
In the latter case the accused was banned from all Virgin Active gyms and Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson issued a statement: “We do not condone any form of discrimination, especially racism.”
- Have you experienced similar outbursts? Send us your story.