- A man dressed in traditional Ndebele attire was told by a shopping centre manager that he was dressed inappropriately.
- Following the incident, the manager, Jose Maponyane, was suspended, pending an investigation.
- He appeared before the CRL commission on Monday and apologised to Thando Mahlangu.
Suspended Boulders shopping centre manager, Jose Maponyane, has apologised to Ndebele activist Thando Mahlangu for asking him to leave because he was dressed in traditional attire.
He says the incident, which was caught on camera and circulated online, was taken out of context.
Maponyane appeared before the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission) on Monday.
He was accompanied by his legal counsel and management from Redefine Properties, which owns the mall.
"It is unfortunate that the incident was misunderstood. I had a cordial discussion with Mr Mahlangu before the recording of the video was taken, which was taken out of context," he told the commission.
A video had previously emerged of Mahlangu and Nqobile Masuku being asked to leave the Johannesburg-based Boulders Shopping Centre because of their Ndebele attire.
The pair had gone to the Clicks store at the mall when the centre manager and security came into the store to ask them to leave.
In the viral video, Maponyane is heard telling Mahlangu that his attire is inappropriate. He has since been suspended, pending an investigation by the property management group.
"I have been in the property industry for over 15 years, and I have never come across a situation like the one I was faced with on that day. I have interacted with various ethnic groups, and I have never questioned nor disrespected their respective cultures in any way.
"I deeply regret the incident that occurred at Boulders Shopping Centre. I accept that the treatment of Mr Mahlangu and Mrs Masuku was totally devoid of the principle of human dignity and equality, which underpins our Constitution," he said.
Maponyane said his reaction to Mahlangu and Masuku was brought on by a lack of contextual knowledge of Mahlangu's outfit, and said the outfit was attracting unnecessary attention from others shoppers.
"When I saw Thando's dress code, it was unusual. There was no cultural event around Midrand, which could have sparked the idea that it was an isolated situation. It was the first time seeing it and, to add on that, what went through my mind, even during the protest, everyone came from KwaNdebele wearing traditional outfits, none of them was wearing anything similar to what Thando was wearing," he said.
"So as a centre manager, that also has to protect the rights of other customers... I had to act, and I never looked down on him, and I said, please cover (up), that is all I am asking because it was drawing attention unnecessarily, of which I felt there was no reason for that," he added.
The commission is expected to wrap up its inquiry into the incident and give recommendations on 29 April, having already interviewed Mahlangu and the centre's property group managers.