Firework fury fu­els ‘racism’

Feud­ing Grey­town men at cen­tre of row over Di­wali

The Witness - - NEWS - KERUSHUN PIL­LAY • kerushun.pil­lay@wit­

A GREY­TOWN man could find him­self in hot wa­ter be­cause of a “racist” Face­book post di­rected at his neigh­bour who was let­ting off fire­works in cel­e­bra­tion of Di­wali.

Jo­han Olivier wrote a post crit­i­cis­ing his neigh­bour, Regesh Govender, a Hindu cel­e­brat­ing Di­wali with fire­works on Wed­nes­day, us­ing a deroga­tory term. Olivier was an­gry that the noise caused dis­tress to his pets.

The post has at­tracted much crit­i­cism, with dozens on Face­book la­belling Olivier a racist.

It ap­peared to have been taken down by yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

Govender, who is orig­i­nally from Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, told The Wit­ness he in­tends to pur­sue the mat­ter legally.

He said the two busi­ness­men have a his­tory of bit­ter feuds, with Govender hav­ing barred Olivier from his restau­rant for mak­ing “con­stant racist re­marks”.

But Olivier, who said he wrote the post out of anger and said he has “many In­dian friends”, has hit back, say­ing he in­tends to open a case with the SPCA against Govender whose fire­works al­legedly caused Olivier’s two dogs to “suf­fer”.

He claimed Govender had it in for him, and had only barred him from the restau­rant be­cause of a squab­ble over gam­bling ma­chines in his restau­rant.

“That [Face­book post] wasn’t a racist re­mark to­ward them [In­di­ans]... I never meant any­thing racist. I was an­gry at this guy. I was an­gry that an­i­mals were suf­fer­ing. I’ve never been a racist in my life.

“He [Govender] had di­rectly shot fire­works to­wards our house,” said Olivier, who lives two doors away from Govender. “Our dogs ac­tu­ally dug a hole un­der­neath the house to try and hide.”

Olivier said bits of firework wrap­pings had fallen onto his roof.

Govender de­nied that he aimed his fire­works at Olivier’s house. “Be­tween 8.30 pm and 9.50 pm we lit aerial dis­play fire­works on the deck of our pool. How can I hold an aerial firework in my hand and point it at the neigh­bour?

“I am a well re­spected busi­ness­man ... and would not dis­obey laws or by­laws.”

Govender said he in­tended to lay a charge against Olivier to de­ter peo­ple mak­ing posts of this kind in the fu­ture.

“Who is he to tell me how to cel­e­brate my cul­ture? We are proud Hin­dus and proud of our cul­ture and we will cel­e­brate Di­wali the way it was in­tended.” He said the post had up­set his fam­ily. In 2016, Dur­ban man Will MacGib­bon was sus­pended by his em­ployer for post­ing on Face­book that In­di­ans cel­e­brat­ing Di­wali were “low-class rub­bish with no morals”.

That same year, an­other Dur­ban man, Dawie Kriel, posted that he could “stran­gle you mo­rons [In­di­ans] with my bare hands and de­rive great plea­sure in watch­ing your face turn blue and your tongue pop out”, about In­di­ans cel­e­brat­ing Di­wali.

The Dur­ban Mag­is­trate’s Court sen­tenced him to a R6 000 fine or 12 months in prison, wholly sus­pended for five years.

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