‘Paranoid white people’

2013-05-02 00:00

THE son of a leading ANC politician has accused jittery staff at a Hillcrest restaurant of racism after they called for police, thinking he was a criminal.

In his words, he said the restaurant, Oscars, was full of “paranoid white people”.

The restaurant owner, Andrew Calinikos was adamant last night, that the man looked “suspicious” and said they were being extra vigilant because Hillcrest was in the midst of a brutal crime wave.

In an e-mail to The Witness, the man said his ill-treatment on Tuesday night was purely because he was black.

The man, from Pietermaritzburg, asked to remain anonymous, saying he did not want to trade on his father’s name.

He also took to Facebook yesterday to voice his disgust. “Jus like not every white person is a racist. White people that dine at Oscars must understand not every young black male is a thug.” (sic)

Calinikos defended the action taken, saying the man demonstrated “suspicious behaviour”. He said they have more black patrons than whites and do not take racism lightly. “We view racism in the worst possible light,” he said. But he insisted the man, who was joined by his wife and a friend, acted in a manner that justified calling security.

Police also arrived and they were accused of prolonging the ordeal, with a white woman officer allegedly continuing with the harassment.

The politician’s son said he arrived at the restaurant five minutes before his wife and friend. The restaurant said this was about 8.45 pm. But, the man said, he suffered a sense of discomfort as people in the restaurant stared at him. “As I sat down, one of the guys I assumed was the manager, or he could have been a waiter, went past my table with that awkward look,” he said. He ordered a juice, which never arrived. His wife and friend then joined him and they ordered drinks and a sandwich.

While they were chatting he noticed a police van patrolling the parking lot, the man said.

“I then noticed a cop standing by my Toyota Fortuner, still unaware that I’m a suspect, or that we are now three young black South African suspects.”

After finishing their drinks, he went to his car and while he was driving out of the parking lot he said he was blocked by a “rude white female officer”.

She had written the wrong numberplate down and told him that his Fortuner was registered as a Toyota Corolla. “She did all this whilst parading us now in front of her fellow white bourgeoisie ‘victims’, protecting them from the invasion of a young black trio, now dubbed car thieves.”

He also claimed that he was harassed verbally. “I explained the car is under my dad’s name. Then she said ‘Call daddy and tell him to explain’. I couldn’t do this because at the time my father was in London.”

To make a stand, he urgws black patrons to descend on Oscars to show customers “that not all black people are thugs”. The restaurant admitted they pressed a panic button to alert both a security company and a crime prevention organisation, who then notified the police about a “dodgy” character.

Calinikos stressed that the action was not motivated by racism. Describing the alleged suspicious behavious, he said the man was staring up and down as if he was fishing for “stuff” and was looking at the manager. Calinikos said the man had two cellphones with him and was constantly on one of them. Once his friends had joined him they shared one sandwich. “Who orders a toasted sandwich to share? And they got up before they even finished their meal. They didn’t want more food or drinks when they were offered. “He was analysing everything and didn’t look comfortable.” Calinikos said both his customers and waiters felt the man was acting peculiarly.

“As soon as the police arrived he got up and left. You wouldn’t get up and leave if you were innocent.”

Police were unavailable to confirm the incident.

Speaking in general terms about race relations, programme head of policy and analysis at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Jan Hofmeyr, said despite the political transition that the country has undergone, South Africans still live separate lives from each other. Hofmeyr said the image of each other was determined by stereotypes and racial profiles.

“A perception of what is a threat is what we usually don’t know or understand,” he said,

• What do you think? E-mail editor@

witness.co.za. Go to www.facebook.com/

witnessnewspaper for the full letter.

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