Four friends, prominent TV and film professionals, have accused a Joburg restaurant of racism and prejudice after a lunch date late last year.
Their experience has led to a complaint being filed at the South African Human Rights Commission against Paul da Silva, owner of the Spetada eatery in Rosebank.
Da Silva has in turn accused them of playing the race card to avoid paying for their meal.
According to the friends – Lesedi Moche, Mmabatho Kau, Karabo Lediga and Thato Mogotsi – they met at the Mediterranean restaurant on the afternoon of Wednesday December 31 last year.
According to Moche’s commission complaint, soon after she began eating she noticed what looked like a small cockroach underneath her lamb chop.
After complaining and sending the meal back, the floor manager offered her another meal, which she declined, but the group continued to drink and eat the remaining meals at the table.
Despite being assured that the meal wouldn’t be charged, when the bill arrived they noticed that it had been. They queried it and the waiter said the lamb chops could not be removed as the manager would make the staff pay for the meal.
They asked to speak to the manager and their request was declined.
“Thato went up first after we realised the waiter was now very nervous,” Kau told City Press. “When she returned she was shocked and frazzled, which is when I went up to talk the situation through.”
According to their account, Da Silva began levelling a series of insults at Kau. Accusing the friends of wanting to get away without paying, he allegedly shouted: “Get the f*ck out of my kitchen. What all you black girls need is a good shagging … All you black girls need a f*ck ... Get the f*ck out of my kitchen.”
Kau says that he yelled at her in full view of staff and patrons.
Not wanting to make the situation worse for the waiter and floor manager, who the friends say were looking “nervous and frightened”, they decided to pay the full bill and leave.
But according to Da Silva, this is not a true reflection of what took place. He told City Press that the group came for lunch while he was in the kitchen cooking. He denies that there was a cockroach in the food, just a small flying insect.
“We have an outdoor setting, so we unfortunately have things flying in,” he said. According to his account, the clients were “attacking” his floor manager and refusing to speak to her, only him.
He says that when confronted by the group he was “cordial, calm and collected at all times, considering I was working in a very busy kitchen at the time ...
“One of the ladies came into the kitchen and was insisting and threatening towards me. They belittled me and spoke down to me,” he claims. “As far as I am concerned, the only racists here are these ladies.”
City Press has traced other accounts of racism at the restaurant online, on Twitter, Hello Peter and TripAdvisor.
When asked about these, Da Silva responded: “The incidents are about paying bills. People don’t want to pay and turn to racism. Because I am white it’s easy for people to say I am racist.”
The complainants have called for a boycott of Spetada by their friends and family. They say they are merely relaying their own bad experience.