‘Swart man’ rant costs man his job
ConCourt sets aside appeal ruling
The Constitutional Court ruled yesterday that a white employee who referred to a black colleague as the “swart man” (black man) during a conflict over a parking space should lose his job.
The apex court upheld an appeal by an employer over the dismissal of Meyer Bester‚ who lost his job in May 2013 following the incident at his workplace at Thembelani mine in Rustenburg, North West.
Bester had not been happy with the fact that a parking spot next to his had been given to fellow employee Solly Tlhomelang by safety officer Ben Sedumedi.
On April 26 that year‚ Bester stormed into a safety meeting chaired by Sedumedi and said in a loud and aggressive manner that Sedumedi must “verwyder daardie swart man se voertuig” (remove that black man’s vehicle).
Bester was dismissed following a disciplinary hearing for misconduct and making racial remarks – but the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and later the Labour Appeal Court – found in Bester’s favour.
The mine appealed to the Constitutional Court.
In a unanimous judgment‚ Justice Leona Theron disagreed with the Labour Appeal Court.
Theron said the correct test was whether a reasonable person would‚ on the correct facts‚ perceive “swart man ”to be racist and defamatory.
“Not only was ‘swart man’ as used here racially loaded‚ and hence derogatorily subordinating‚ but it was unreasonable to conclude otherwise‚” Theron said.
She added that dismissing Bester was the correct sanction as he had not shown remorse for what he said.