View Full Version : Racism - Not all black and white?

dyonne modlin
18-03-2011, 18:20
Couldn't resist starting a debate again, What do you think of this? :cool:

Every now and then an event happens in my life which triggers one of my HR Information newsletters. In this case it was the words in a CCMA referral document, `The Consultant will never find a black Africa person not guilty’. Without boring you with the facts let me just say that the accused hit another employee, pleaded Guilty in the hearing, but now I ...`the consultant’.... am an implied Racist. What interests me is not the case – not the fact that another employee who did wrong is trying to use the system to escape justice - but how I reacted to what has become a very common place accusation. I am pissed off – I have had enough of people playing the race card to escape justice. I have had enough of the ridiculous accusations, the uninformed and illegitimate opinions, the overused and misunderstood rhetoric!

That is not to say that real racism is not still alive in the workplace. In light of the pending changes to the employment equity legislation and the `politicised’ state of the workforce, I thought I would share some interesting cases with you so that you can make sure that you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of the `race issue’.

The first thing that you have to understand is that racism can include; derogatory language, labelling people, implied racism.

In Lebowa Platinium Mines Limited vs Hill the Supervisor at the mine forgot an employee’s name and called him `bobejaan’ and `kaffir’. He was dismissed and a very clear directive was issued by the Labour Court that such racist language cannot be tolerated.

In Crown Chicken (Pty) Ltd, vs Kapp and Others, a worker was injured but the Supervisor would not call for medical assistance saying. `Los die Kaffir...’ When the Supervisor was dismissed he stated that the employer had not done any HR / Cultural Diversity Training. Nice try, but the courts still upheld his dismissal.

In Oerlikon Electrodes SA vs CCMA and Others, an employee admitted to calling a repairman who had done a bad job a `Dutchman’. The courts ruled that the term `Dutchman’ while not as serious as the use of the word `Kaffir’ was derogatory and unacceptable and the courts upheld the dismissal of the employee.

In South African Transport and Allied Workers Union versus Old Mutual Life Assurance, a very interesting and important precedent was set. This was the first case where an Employer was sued for not acting properly against an employee who committed an act of racism in the workplace. In short a woman in the office asked her Supervisor why she was rearranging the desks and putting her next to a `kaffir’. A coloured woman overhead her and complained to the Supervisor who asked her to keep quiet about the incident. Down the line the courts ruled that the remark was racist and that Old Mutual’s delay in taking action against the employee and their failure to protect their employees against racism was direct discrimination.

MY COMMENT: It is clear from this ruling and others that have followed that incidents of racism require immediate and strong disciplinary action be taken to protect the Employer.

Fester and AVR Labour Outsourcing , dealt with a comment made by a white forklift driver who after an argument with a black colleague, stated, `Since you people took over, it’s difficult on our side.’ The white forklift driver was dismissed and the courts upheld his dismissal stating that his labelling of a colleague as `you people’ showed his low opinion of the group of people to whom his colleague belonged. That the fact that he did not use racist words does not mean that his words were not racist and his dismissal was fair.

MY COMMENT: This judgement really worries me. What is next – being dismissed for giving someone a `racist’ look? The only answer is to create an awareness and a culture in your business where all employees are made aware of these issues. Also put out a strongly worded policy on dealing with this issue.

And finally my favourite outcome.....

In SACWU Versus NCP Chlorchem, an African employee had accused a white employee of being racist. He refused to apologise to him and the white employee lodged a grievance. The African employee was found guilty of `insulting behaviour’ and was dismissed. The courts upheld his dismissal stating that to accuse a person of being a racist is racially offensive and insulting and warranted dismissal.

MY COMMENT: Hooray – finally we don’t have to take all these accusations that are thrown at us willy-nilly. I am tired of feeling that I have to defend my judgements . For the record (and for the last time) IF YOU DO THE CRIME – YOU DO THE TIME. Period – Black, White or Somewhere In-between. Your colour makes no difference – your actions do!


For those of you who made it to the end of this update well done to you. In South Africa you cannot use the defence of Ignorance. You have to be proactive and deal with these issues. As a minimum you must:
• Have a strongly worded policy outlawing racism – issued to and signed by all employees.
• Have a specific procedure for investigating racism and a defined disciplinary process
• Do cultural diversity training – tackle controversial issues such as Xenophobia
• Keep educated and encourage open debate on the issue

Racism will not go away and we need to have a way of dealing with it – outlawing it – while still making sure that those people who are falsely accused have recourse to justice as well.

In Life, Laughter and Love


18-03-2011, 18:44
The first thing that you have to understand is that racism can include; derogatory language, labelling people, implied racism.


Interesting stuff Dyonne! I agree - and it works both ways.. as long as we categorise, we fail to see the human being

18-03-2011, 20:37
Dyonne - you used the term "Those people"

Be warned -I am watching you!!!!

20-03-2011, 09:01
Very interesting read Dyonne.

The outcomes of the last 2 cases were particularly scary (and thought provoking).