Cape Town – Cape Town racist, William Lindesque, has been ordered to pay half of Kafui Awoonor’s psychiatrist fees after she approached a practitioner following Lindeque’s request that she pretend to be in a plantation and fan him in the summer of December 2017 at the Yogazone studio in Kloof Street. The ruling was made on Thursday at the Cape Town Equality Court, almost eleven months after the incident.
Kafui Awoonor and William Lindesque were both employed as yoga instructors at Yoga Zone in Kloof Street when the latter made a request to the former to pretend that they were in a plantation and cool him down in the summer of December 2017.
Awonoor did not take these comments well as a black woman whose ancestors were victims of slavery.
Lindesque and a colleague who had laughed at Lindeque’s comment were allegedly given a verbal warning by the owner of the studio, Fulvio
Grandin, but Awoonor says she has no evidence of this as she was not called to the meeting.
A few days after the incident Lindesque sent Awoonor a WhatsApp text apologizing for his actions, the apology was read out by the margistate Ingrid Arntsen as:
“I am so incredibly sorry, Kafui! The last thing I wanted to do was hurt or offend or come acrossas racist. Race is such a non-issue for me that I sometimes feel that I can joke about racism similar to the gay thing. But I totally respect and understand that I have no clue and shouldn’t. Therefore my deepest and most sincere apology.”
CCMA & Labour Court
After the incident, Awoonor then approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) after she felt that the action taken against the two by her employer was not adequate. The complaints lodged were for unfair discrimination and unfair dismissal after the employer failed to pay her for November and December when she refused to go to work after the incident.
The CMMA commissioner ruled in her favour for the complaint against unfair dismissal and she was awarded R24 000 in March, however the commissioner ruled against her for unfair discrimination ruling that though she had been indeed discriminated against the action taken by the employer which includes a verbal warning was sufficient, even though it was made in Awoonor’s absence. Awoonor has since taken this on review with the Labour Court.
In August 2018 after the CCMA ruling, Awoonor went public with a YouTube video that went viral claiming that her employer had threatened her physical harm physically and legal action if she exposed the truth about the incident. After she had gone public, Lindeque posted two apologies on his Facebook profile, one which in which he announced his resignation from the Yoga studio nine months after the incident. Awoonor said that the first two apologies were not genuine and the third apology was only in reaction to her going public. The apology was read by the court as:
The incident that occurred on 8 December 2017 is known to many of you, and has haunted me since. I made comment to a colleague which was stupid and insensitive, I realise that there is no place for racially charged remarks in any situation. I apologise unreservedly to Kafui Awoonor and all whom have been hurt by my comment, and ask for your forgiveness. I have decided to resign from Yogazone and apologise to my colleagues and yoga community for the difficulty caused by this incident. I hope that in time both Kafui and society at large will be able to forgive my terrible mistake. My last day at Yogazone will be on 31 August 2018.
At the end of August, Awonoor filed an application with the Cape Town Equality Court where she sought relief in the form of a public, unconditional apology; for Lindeque to perform community service; and for a monetary award in the amount of R40 000.
The court ruled that Lindeque’s comments constituted hate speech and were in contravention of Section 10 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act No 4 of 2000.
“A white male reminding a black female of how her ancestors were sold into slavery and suggesting that she act as his slave can be seen as undermining the human dignity of the recipient of the remark and perpetuating a system which disadvantaged an entire race”, ruled Magistrate Arntsen.
“It can be construed as saying to an entire race of people that they are not worthy of being free human beings, but only fit to be owned by persons of a superior race and kept in servitude”, continued Magistrate Arntsen.
Addressing the relief sought by Awoonor, Arnsten said that she was satisfied by the numerous apologies by Lindeque and that an order from the court would not make any difference after Awoonor claimed that the previous public apologies were not unconditional as they had come after she had gone public.
“I cannot imagine that an apology ordered by the court will be any better than the public apologies that the complainant has already received. It would be in compliance with a court order and no more genuine that the apologies made in response to the complainant’s public posts”, remarked Arntsen.
On community service the Margistrate said that the respondent had informed the court that he had, of his own accord, decided to undertake community service at the Earthchild Project in Khayelitsha, which he, weather permitting, teaches yoga to children in that area where he travel using his motorbike. Lindeque informed the court that he uses his motorbike after he had to sell his car to make ends meet after he resigned his job at Yogazone as a result of the incident.
Arntsen said though she understood the complainant’s problem with the community service already undertaken by Lindeque was done as means to undercut her attempts to have the court impose community service and that he chose to do the community service with people he is familiar with, she was satisfied by that as the respondent had off his own accord done some good at his own expense to make amends for his actions.
The Magistrate said that she had decided not to impose community service because the Equality Courts have no automatic system of community services et up, and no monitoring system in place and that it could be months before court-mandated community service could take effect.
“I think that the community service he has chosen is suited to his talents and exposes him to persons of another race sufficiently to challenge any prejudices he may have”, said Arnsten.
On the R40 000 monetary award sought to cover legal fees and loss of income, half of which would go to charity, the court further ruled that Lindeque was not liable to pay for any costs incurred by Awonoor as he had not been party to the application at the CCMA.
Furthermore the Margistrate found that the owner of Yogazone, Fulvio Grandin, was in the process of terminating the complainant’s contract with Yogazone as from the end of December 2017 and that she already been awarded R24 000 from the CCMA case and she was not entitled to receive any income beyond the period of her contract expiring.
In addition the court ruled that the only amount due from the respondent was R300, a half of the R600 medical fees incurred after Awoonor visited a psychiatrist due to her not being able to cope emotionally after the Lindeque’s racist remark to her and being informed by the owner of Yoga Zone that her contract was about to come to an end. Margistrate Arntsen ruled that as a result of Lindeque’s remark forming only part of the visit to the psychiatrist, he could not be liable for the full amount.
Arntsen said that the court was not there to punish Lindesque as he had already “suffered, and will suffer further, from the loss of his job as a consequence of his careless racism. There is really no need for the court to impose any further sanction than that”.
The court ordered Lindeque to pay Awonoor the sum of R300 for medical expenses and that he continue with his community service which is a total of six months teaching one yoga class a week.
Reacting to the judgment Lindeque said that “I think that the Margistrate was fair and I am ready to move on with my life now”.
Awonoor said that the judgment reminded her of a message sent to her on Thursday morning in which she advised her that the Equality Court route was not the only way to get justice for what happened to her.
“The judgment of the judge is very symbolic to that. I think her overall judgment I still need to wait for but I think that the fact that she considered his suffering more than my suffering with this isvery telling of how the South African law works; not in favour of the victim but in favour of the perpetrators.”
“He will continue his life as a yoga instructor. So I don’t feel like justice was don today I feel like someone who discriminated against, someone who who is a racist was indulged”, remarked Awoonor.
Asked whether she was considering an appeal she reitarated her friend’s words “justice was not served today and will not be served in court, I will find another way to get my justice for this and to make sure that people who deem it acceptable to be racist are put on notice that this will not stand”.
Awoonor was unclear as to what this entailed but she maintained that she would still donate to charity half of the R300 Lindeque is due pay to her.