Unionist fined for racism

2018-04-20 16:19
Ronnie Yeoman (right), manager of the Pietermaritzburg SPCA, outside the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate's Court with her attorney, Sesethu Magaba, on Thursday morning.

Ronnie Yeoman (right), manager of the Pietermaritzburg SPCA, outside the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate's Court with her attorney, Sesethu Magaba, on Thursday morning. (Nompilo Kunene)

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National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) regional secretary, Zimasile Giyama, has been ordered by a magistrate to apologise to an SPCA manager for calling her a “white racist b***h”.

If he does not apologise he was ordered to pay a fine of R50 000.

Giyama did not attend the case at the equality court situated at the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday despite being served with a summons.

Attorney Sesethu Magaba, who represented the SPCA manager, Ronnie Yeoman, asked that the case proceed in his absence and for judgment to be granted in their favour.

Yeoman said after the case she was happy with the court’s judgment.

Testifying earlier in court about the incident, Yeoman told magistrate Kgomotso Kgayile that on November 17 last year, a meeting was held between SPCA employees and representatives of Nehawu, which she’d assumed was about wage negotiations.

Yeoman said the meeting was supposed to run from 10 am to 11 am but went beyond the stipulated time.

At around 11.20 am, Yeoman said she received a call about an injured dog and because all the employees were still in the meeting, she decided to put her head into the room where the meeting was happening to ask if anyone could attend the emergency.

“Mr Giyama, whose name I did not know at the time, said to me: ‘You are rude. Do you know who I am? Go to hell and take your dogs with you’.

“The staff members started to laugh, I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

Yeoman said she called a labour lawyer and was told to get the man’s name.

“After the meeting, I caught up with him [Giyama] and asked him for his name. He responded by saying ‘F**k you, you white racist b***h’.

“I was so shocked and I think I responded by telling him he was being rude,” said Yeoman.

Magistrate Kgayile ordered that Giyama must apologise to Yeoman in front of the SPCA employees and if he fails, he will have to pay R50 000 to the SPCA.

During an adjournment prior to the judgment being delivered, The Witness saw Giyama arrive at the court building, but he did not go inside.

After speaking to Magaba, Yeoman’s lawyer, outside, he left before the judgment was handed down.

Asked for his comments after the case in a telephonic interview, Giyama told The Witness he did not call Yeoman a “white racist b***h” but said he was provoked by Yeoman and ended up calling her an “old racist cow” out of anger.

“I also feel that I was treated unfairly by the law. I never signed for any notice [court summons] telling me that I need to appear to court today [on Thursday].”

Giyama said the document was delivered to the Nehawu offices where it was signed for by his colleague who forgot to tell him about it until Thursday.

“I only received a call this morning from a colleague telling me I was supposed to be at court for the SPCA matter now. I had to rush from Howick and after speaking to her [Yeoman’s] lawyer, I thought the judgment had already been delivered, so I left,” he said.

Giyama said he would “definitely” be appealing the judgment as he fails to understand “why the magistrate was in such a rush to give a judgment” before hearing his side of the story.

“If this was a personal matter between her [Yeoman] and I, I would apologise, but this is about the balance of power in the workplace as it involves our members who claim that they are being abused and mistreated by her. I won’t do it.

“She wants me to go beg with cap in hand for mercy. That would be like me telling our members that she is above the union and what she was doing was right.”

Giyama said he would first consult Nehawu’s legal team as he was at the SPCA representing Nehawu at the time of the incident, and he will only apologise if he is instructed to do so by Nehawu.

Told of Giyama’s comments, Yeoman said she was “shocked” by his allegation that she “abused and mistreated” staff. “I am always accused of being too soft on my staff,” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  hate speech

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