Firework fury fuels ‘racism’

2018-11-09 13:40
Witness reader Willy Schlosser photographed Diwali celebrations from his bedroom window in Montrose.

Witness reader Willy Schlosser photographed Diwali celebrations from his bedroom window in Montrose. (Willy Schlosser)

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2018-11-09 13:02

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A Greytown man could find himself in hot water because of a “racist” Facebook post directed at his neighbour who was letting off fireworks in celebration of Diwali.

Johan Olivier wrote a post criticising his neighbour, Regesh Govender, a Hindu celebrating Diwali with fireworks on Wednesday, using a derogatory term. Olivier was angry that the noise caused distress to his pets.

The post has attracted much criticism, with dozens on Facebook labelling Olivier a racist.

It appeared to have been taken down by Thursday afternoon.

Govender, who is originally from Pietermaritzburg, told The Witness he intends to pursue the matter legally.

He said the two businessmen have a history of bitter feuds, with Govender having barred Olivier from his restaurant for making “constant racist remarks”.

But Olivier, who said he wrote the post out of anger and said he has “many Indian friends”, has hit back, saying he intends to open a case with the SPCA against Govender whose fireworks allegedly caused Olivier’s two dogs to “suffer”.

He claimed Govender had it in for him, and had only barred him from the restaurant because of a squabble over gambling machines in his restaurant.

“That [Facebook post] wasn’t a racist remark toward them [Indians]... I never meant anything racist. I was angry at this guy. I was angry that animals were suffering. I’ve never been a racist in my life.

“He [Govender] had directly shot fireworks towards our house,” said Olivier, who lives two doors away from Govender. “Our dogs actually dug a hole underneath the house to try and hide.”

Olivier said bits of firework wrappings had fallen onto his roof.

Govender denied that he aimed his fireworks at Olivier’s house. “Between 8.30 pm and 9.50 pm we lit aerial display fireworks on the deck of our pool. How can I hold an aerial firework in my hand and point it at the neighbour?

“I am a well respected businessman ... and would not disobey laws or bylaws.”

Govender said he intended to lay a charge against Olivier to deter people making posts of this kind in the future.

“Who is he to tell me how to celebrate my culture? We are proud Hindus and proud of our culture and we will celebrate Diwali the way it was intended.”

He said the post had upset his family.

In 2016, Durban man Will MacGibbon was suspended by his employer for posting on Facebook that Indians celebrating Diwali were “low-class rubbish with no morals”.

That same year, another Durban man, Dawie Kriel, posted that he could “strangle you morons [Indians] with my bare hands and derive great pleasure in watching your face turn blue and your tongue pop out”, about Indians celebrating Diwali.

The Durban Magistrate’s Court sentenced him to a R6 000 fine or 12 months in prison, wholly suspended for five years.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  racism

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