Cape Town bike shop in racist controversy

2015-05-20 14:28
Nils Hansen, owner of Woodstock Cycleworks has been called a racist, and unprofessional by an unhappy customer.

Nils Hansen, owner of Woodstock Cycleworks has been called a racist, and unprofessional by an unhappy customer. (

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Social media was ablaze this morning after journalist Philip Owira accused the owner of the Woodstock Cycleworks in Cape Town of being both “racist” and “unprofessional”.

Owira went to the shop to have a friend’s bicycle serviced, but had an altercation with the shop’s owner, Nils Hansen, and took to Facebook to voice his displeasure.

Owira claimed that Hansen racially profiled him and a friend, insinuated that they had stolen the bicycle, and escorted them from the shop. He described the incident as “extremely unequal and offensive”.

City Press spoke to both Owira and Hansen this morning. Both view the incident very differently.

Hansen said that the incident was “a joke” and “literally hilarious”, but Owira believed it was blatant racism.

Owira said they entered the shop through an open gate, and were met by an employee who proceeded to help them.

Then Hansen approached them. Seeing Owira and his companion, who was dressed in what Owira described as “religious clothing”, the owner asked: “Meneer, what are you doing here?”

Although taken aback, Owira explained that he needed the bike serviced. Hansen’s response was to ask whose bike it was, and said that he had seen the bike in the neighbourhood yesterday.

Owira said that this was not true, as the bike had been at his house for weeks.

Hansen explained that his comment about seeing the bike was purely innocent.

“I just said that I had seen the bike, and knew the owner. It’s a fairly old bike – very popular in Europe, and was one I had serviced before. I was not suggesting anything. This has been taken out of context.”

However, Owira believed that the insinuation was clear – that the pair had stolen the bike.

“This was clearly racial profiling and I’m not ashamed at all to call it out as that. Nils behaved in a highly unprofessional way, and it was important for me to address,” he explained.

Hansen said that he had just emerged from a shower when he saw the pair, and he was disoriented and confused as to why customers were in the shop before it opened.

Nevertheless, Hansen said that he was fully booked up and would not be prepared to keep the bike in the shop. He believed that Owira was cowardly for not approaching him personally if he was upset, but said that he would not remove the complaint from the Facebook page.

“I have had plenty of people defend the shop – I don’t need to delete it. People who know me, know what I’m about. I’m not going to excuse or defend myself. This was just a bad situation.”

Owira did not accept this, and said that the incident was “extremely unequal and offensive”, considering that Hansen personally escorted him and his companion out of the shop, but let two white customers in just seconds later.

“There’s been no apology or anything. As a local businessman, his lack of professional behaviour needed to be addressed. That is why I posted on Facebook,” said Owira.

Hansen said that he had no intention of approaching the unhappy customer, and dismissed any notion of being a racist.

Owira said he would not be pursuing further action, but he made it clear that he will not be using the services of Woodstock Cycleworks again.

Since the incident occurred, Hansen has made numerous attempts to contact Owira, to no avail. He said that he would like the opportunity to explain, and speak directly to him, as opposed to on social media. “This whole thing has just escalated, and been taken out of context. I am certainly not a racist”.

* This article was updated to include Hansen's attempts to contact Owira

Read more on:    cape town

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