Justice still fails people of colour, says victim of 'careless racism'
Equality Court won't make former yoga studio manager cough up more in 'racism' row
A yoga teacher says an equality court “slap on the wrist” in her racial discrimination case has left her in an unhappy position.
Kafui Awoonor hauled her former manager at Yogazone in Cape Town, Will Lindeque, before the equality court in Cape Town after a casual exchange which she said had twisted her life out of shape.
Lindeque said to her: “It is really hot today. Let’s pretend we’re at the plantation so that you can fan me.”
Awoonor said she was devastated, and unable to set foot on her yoga mat for 10 months. She asked the court to order Lindeque to write an “unreserved, unconditional public apology” and perform community service at an NGO that teaches yoga to inmates at Pollsmoor Prison.
She also demanded R40,000 in damages from Lindeque that she would share with a charity of her choice.
But magistrate Ingrid Arntsen ordered Lindeque to pay Awoonor just R300 for her medical expenses and said he must continue with the community service he had chosen. Last month, Lindeque told the court he taught yoga to children at an aftercare in Khayelitsha.
Arntsen also considered that Lindeque had already lost his job at Yogazone as a result of his utterances.
“It would appear that [Lindeque] has suffered, and will suffer further, from the loss of his job as a consequence of his careless racism,” said Arntsen. “There is really no need for the court to impose any further sanction than that.”
Awoonor described the sanction as a slap on the wrist.
“Over 24 years after the official end of apartheid, the justice system is still failing people of colour,” she said.
“The system still fails to fully protect and serve justice to the oppressed. It still does not work for black people. It works to diminish our dignity and humanity.”
Last month, Awoonor told the court she lost her job after the incident and needed the help of a psychologist and healers. Lindeque apologised to Awoonor on WhatsApp and Facebook and admitted the remark was discriminatory.
But Awoonor said his apology was not genuine and he contacted her only after she posted a video on Facebook about her intention to sue.
“The damage and trauma that his actions have caused me must be considered within the context of me being a Ghanaian woman,” she said. “I come from a country and a region that was impacted most by the stealing and kidnapping and raping and wanton killing of black people by Europeans.”
She lodged a racial discrimination case against Yogazone at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, but it was dismissed.
Lindeque said he had apologised to Awoonor.
In court papers, he said the “tongue-in-cheek” comment stemmed from a conversation about his disagreement with another studio that made cleaning staff stand outside yoga classes with a tray of warm facecloths.
“I expressed that it smacked of colonialism,” he said.
He said he had lost his job amid the social media furore stoked by Awoonor and that no studio wanted to employ him.
Contacted for comment after following the judgment, Lindeque said: “I thought that the magistrate was very fair in her decision. I think she understood that although my comment was a bit careless and irresponsible, there was no malicious intent. I wish Ms Awoonor all the best. I wish she can find peace.”