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Sunday, March 23, 2008

South African store Shoprite probed for racist slur


The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has opened investigations on

South African retail chain store Shoprite following reports of racist
remarks by one of the company’s managers who allegedly called ‘monkeys’
black employees at the retail shop’s Lilongwe branch.

Shoprite Managing Director Jaco Dellemijn initially declined to
comment on the issue, saying it had already been resolved internally
but in an email response to a Nation on Sunday questionnaire Dellemijn
said their investigations revealed that there are "no grounds or
evidence that employees were the subject of the racist or abusive

MHRC chairperson Dorothy Nyasulu disclosed during an interview that
after being alerted of the incident the commission opened
investigations and so far officials from the commission have already
interviewed workers who were reportedly the target of the racist
remarks from Finance manager Malcolm Smit..

"We have also written [Smit] who is being accused but he has not yet
replied to our query. As a commission we are investigating the issue
and we will issue a statement after we are through," she said.

Nyasulu said if indeed the manager uttered such remarks it was
regrettable because Shoprite was one of the companies which have
previously been warned to change the way employees are treated.

"We sent this report to them and asked them to change and if that
indeed happened then it means they don’t want to change. We would want
to ask the Ministry of Labour to come in and visit these companies
before something big happens," she said.

According to workers at the company, Smit called workers at the
branch ‘monkeys’ after he picked a quarrel with the employees during a
stocktaking exercise.

He explained that after the incident some workers were furious with
the racist remarks and went out to deflate tyres for two of the
company’s vehicles which were parked outside the building.

The employees said this was not the first time that some managers at
the company have made such racist remarks to black employees.

"However, instead of management addressing the issue of the racist
remarks they want to fire those suspected to have deflated the tyres of
the cars. We have challenged them that we will not accept to have our
colleagues fired because we feel that it is unfair. They have to
resolve the issue of us being called monkeys first," he said.

Responding to a questionnaire sent on request from Smit, the
company’s Managing Director said the company also instituted
investigations on the issue.

"(We) have found no grounds or evidence that employees were the
subject of the racist or abusive language you refer to. In addition, we
are also satisfied that there is no basis for the allegation that the
alleged name-calling also took place on 6 March 2008," said Dellemijn.

He added: "The company views allegations of the racist or abusive
treatment of any staff in an extremely serious light. Where such
misconduct is established, disciplinary proceedings are initiated which
may result in the summary dismissal of those involved."

President of the Commercial, Industrial and Allied Workers Union
(CIAWU) Tryson Kalanda said although his office was aware of the
incident it was waiting for an official complaint from the workers for
the Union to take action.

However, Kalanda said what the manager allegedly did was an offence
under both the Employment Act as well as Labour Relations Act.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We Malawians are peace loving.These foreigners must know that we can react badly if provoked unnecessarily.I never heard them say we are monkeys but they can say so.We can be fools but not stupid.Calling us monkeys is going too far.