‘Swart man’ rant costs man his job

ConCourt sets aside ap­peal rul­ing

Sowetan - - News - By Ernest Mabuza

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.

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