Guards accused of homophobia

 Thando Dyamara
Thando Dyamara

A man claims to have been physically and verbally assaulted by a security guard in Site C’s Shoprite.

Thando Dyamara, who is a facilitator at Equal Education and is studying education at CPUT, recounted the distressing incident to GroundUp.

On Tuesday Dyamara entered Shoprite in Site C, Khayelitsha, as he regularly does, intending to buy some bread. He went to the parcels counter to hand in the Pep plastic packet that he was carrying but the security guard from Sakiwe Guarding Division, who was standing by the counter, told Dyamara that he couldn’t give the packet to the woman behind the counter as it was against regulations.

“I could not understand, because why do we have a parcel counter if we cannot hand in our stuff?” Dyamara said.

Dyamara said that the woman behind the counter agreed to take his packet but that the security guard “grabbed” the plastic packet out of his hand and put Shoprite tape around it. Dyamara thought that the security guard would then put the packet behind the counter but this did not happen and instead the security guard, according to Dyamara, threw the packet onto the floor.

Dymara said he then asked the man why he had thrown it on the floor.

“He did not seem to even care about my questions and then he said I was a very rude person. He said ‘usile kwedini’ [you are a very rude little boy], which is a very undermining statement,” said Dyamara.

At that point they began to argue, with both allegedly swearing at one another. Dyamara claims that the security guard said to him, “Voetsek kwedini moffie,” again using the word kwedini – little boy.

Dyamara said that the security guard then jumped over the metal railings to where he was standing by the fruit stands and smacked him on his face with an open hand. Dyamara said that the woman behind the parcel counter was shocked and everyone around them was staring, while the security guard “showed no regret”.

A woman from the management was called and Dyamara went to a private office.

“I was crying at the time because I couldn’t hold myself [together],” said Dyamara. “I have been going to that Shoprite since it was opened and I have never had any problems with it.”

Dyamara admits that he swore at the security guard but also that the security guard was swearing at him.

“He [the guard] had no right to discriminate against me [called him a moffie]. We live in this country and there is a constitution that guides us. Discrimination is not allowed,” said Dyamara.

Dyamara said that he was told to “calm down” because they don’t want the “other customers to see what had happened”.

He said that they went to check on the security footage so that they could see what had happened but that he was told that they couldn’t find the footage for the particular part of the store, which was the entrance.

Dyamara said that the security guard described his version of events saying that it was Dyamara who put the plastic packet on the floor, that Dyamara swore at him and that he smacked Dyamara because he was rude.

Dyamara said that he gave his side of the story and asked for the police to be called, but they were not. Instead the management apologised for what happened.

“They told me that he [the security guard] is outsourced so they can’t do anything about it. Only the security company can do something about it,” said Dyamara.

Dyamara questioned why Shoprite would leave it to the security company rather than address the matter themselves.

Following the incident, Dyamara opened a case with the Khayelitsha Police Station on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning GroundUp accompanied Dyamara to the store. In the entrance there is a large screen that plays security camera footage. Behind the parcels counter there were bags and even one plastic packet, indicating that it clearly isn’t store policy to not put plastic packets behind the counter.

GroundUp spoke to the branch manager who wouldn’t give us his name and told us that he couldn’t speak to the media. He was unable to tell us if head office knew about the incident, saying that the security company would need to report the incident to him and only then could he report it to head office. When asked whether the security company knew of the incident, he was also unable to say. This was the same man who Dyamara claimed had told him on Tuesday to lay a charge with the police.

Following GroundUp’s enquiry to Shoprite communications department, Shoprite investigated the claims.

Shoprite’s Sarita van Wyk then said that the company had “not been able to gather complete information on what occurred in our store on Tuesday” but that they “can confirm that an incident involving a customer and a contracted security guard did occur”.

“Shoprite can also confirm that it does not condone or tolerate any form of violence or disrespectful behaviour against customers in our company. Our investigation into this matter will continue until we have all the facts. As per our policy, decisive action will be taken on conclusion thereof, guided by the outcome of the investigation.”

Dyamara plans to organise a picket outside Shoprite along with LGBTI organisations. “Hate crimes, prejudice and stigma have to end,” said Dyamara. “Discrimination against a person because of their sexuality is a criminal offence; assault against a person because of their sexuality is a criminal offence.”

GroundUp called Sakiwe Guarding Solutions numerous times on Thursday afternoon to ask for comment but the line was always engaged.

– Ground Up

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