Gyms: A racial hotbed?

2017-03-12 06:00
A racial altercation at the Sandton Planet Fitness Gym. (Video screengrab)

A racial altercation at the Sandton Planet Fitness Gym. (Video screengrab)

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Despite efforts by gym clubs to prohibit racism and all forms of discrimination, managers are still being left bewildered by intolerant members hurling racist jibes at people.

A black woman, who was told by a white fellow gym member that she stinks and has Aids, wants justice.

Lisa Sidukwana said this was no ordinary tiff between two women, but a racially motivated incident.

“If it was not a racial incident, why would a white lady say to me: ‘You and your people have Aids’, and that it is unhygienic for her to touch me or be in the steam room with me?” she asked.

Sidukwana (31) visited Planet Fitness Platinum in Sandton for a routine workout last month and she decided to go to the sauna. She removed her clothes and placed them next to the sauna stove.

While relaxing in the sauna, Sidukwana alleges that a young white woman walked in and demanded to know whose clothes they were.

“I told her they were mine, without paying much attention to her aggressive approach. She then said my clothes stink and I also stink.

“I told her that, if my clothes stink and I stink too, she should not yell at me as I have a right to use the facility as a gym member. She then left,” she said.

Sidukwana thought the argument had ended there, but the woman had gone to report the matter to the gym manager, Quewan Frame.

A few minutes later, Sidukwana was summoned to the manager’s office to give her side of the story.

Sidukwana said she was disappointed by how Frame handled the situation.

“While telling my side of the story, Quewan told me to stop yelling because I was hurting his ears.

“I was still shocked by his reaction [when] the white lady came rushing into the office, directly approached me in a rage and attacked me in front of him. He didn’t stop her until I reached for her to try to defend myself.

“Then he stopped me,” Sidukwana said.

“She stormed out and walked towards the reception area, yelling and saying I look like I have Aids and that’s why I stink. She repeated that it was unhygienic for her to touch me or be in the steam room with me.

“She went on to say: ‘You and your people have Aids; all of you have it.’

“What saddened me about this was how the club manager witnessed a defamatory, racial and discriminatory incident but said nothing.

“This, to me, meant that he agreed with [her assertion] that black people have Aids and [that] they should not be in the steam room with white people because they stink,” Sidukwana said.

City Press has seen the video of the woman shouting at Sidukwana, saying she has Aids. Frame is seen coming between the two women, but he says nothing.

This week, Planet Fitness confirmed that the incident took place at the club in Sandton.

Kirstie Weber, marketing manager at Planet Fitness, said: “Planet Fitness is a multicultural company and, therefore, we do not accept or tolerate any form of racism at our clubs, nor do we discriminate against any race, nationality or gender.

“We are taking the appropriate measures to ensure that this situation gets resolved as soon as possible, and that we reach a suitable outcome for all parties involved.”

But Sidukwana said Planet Fitness should do more than simply acknowledge that the incident took place.

“I want justice because this was clearly a racial incident. I am considering taking legal action, but if I receive an apology, I may let the matter go.”

It is not the first time that Planet Fitness has found itself in the middle of a racial brawl.

The nationwide gym made headlines two years ago when Ntokozo Lwandle alleged that he had been called a k****r by a white man while working out at the facility in Bedfordview.

Although he reported the matter to the SA Human Rights Commission, the member who used the racial epithet could not be traced.

After an engagement with the commission, the gym has amended its rules to prohibit racism or any discriminatory language based on sex, gender and social origin.

PAST RACIST INCIDENTS

- December 2011: Liz Hleza was called a “k****r” by another gym member during a spinning class at the Virgin Active gym in Morningside because she kept shouting “yebo” to express her enthusiasm for the music and exercise.

- February 2012: Lesley Mofokeng laid a criminal charge after he was insulted by a gym member at the Virgin Active gym in Sunninghill. The gym member reportedly called him a “boy” and accused him of “hogging the equipment”, saying: “You black guys take everything. We know this is your f***ing country, but you do not have to control everything.”

- July 2013: Racial slurs and verbal abuse was heaped on Happy Ngidi outside Virgin Active in Constantia Kloof in Johannesburg for reversing her car too slowly for the liking of another gym-goer. The white man shouted: “What the f**k is your problem, b***h! What is your problem? You bloody k****r.”

Read more on:    racism

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