Gym re-opens probe into racism incident

Comment on this story
feb7  gym INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS File photo

Virgin Active has re-opened an investigation into a racist incident following an outcry on social networks.

 A woman told The Star how a fellow gym member at Virgin Active Morningside in Sandton took offence to her enthusiasm in a spinning class by calling her a “bloody k*****, a cockroach and a selfish bitch”.

 Liz Hleza, who is in her 50s, said the incident which occurred on December 31 had happened in full view of the instructor, who continued the class without defusing the situation.

 Hleza said she was enjoying the music and kept shouting “yebo” as the instructor put them through the gruelling exercise.

 However, a man in front of her was not happy about that. He got off his bicycle and confronted her.

 “I was so scared and thought he was going to hit me, he was very angry. He said I should keep quiet and kept saying this bloody k*****, you k*****. He was pointing fingers at me. He said ‘bloody c**** and that I was a selfish bitch. He also told me that I was born walking on four legs with a tail, and I should go back to the bushes where I belong and make that noise there.”

 Hleza claims that she did not return the insult.

 "Thank God I did not lower myself to his level. But his friend sprayed me with water from his squeeze bottle. He said ‘shoosh, can’t you see you are upsetting my friend’, and I told him that I was also paying membership there.”

 After the class, Hleza went to the manager on duty to complain and when that manager called the two men to her office, they refused to go. The man, she said, swore at her again. “He said ‘You bloody k*****, you are a cockroach and next time I come to the gym I will bring Doom to spray you with’.”

Hleza said someone from the disciplinary committee asked her about the incident, but kept asking her whether she was sure of her facts because the man whom she claimed insulted her was a lawyer and if it was found she was not speaking the truth, her contract at the gym would be terminated.

 Hleza, who lives in Alexandra, said she was not happy about the way the management handled the situation. She claims she was told that the man had apologised. “However, he never apologised to me.”

 The club then organised a meeting two weeks ago where the man was to apologise. However, he said he wouldn’t be able to make it.

 “On that Saturday, he saw me in the class but did not even say anything to me. After the class, he just left,” said Hleza.

 Virgin Active’s Karen Gordon told The Star that the health club franchise did not tolerate discrimination and that “the member that allegedly misbehaved also received formal correspondence… which included a final warning”.

 Gordon also said nobody would be compelled to make an apology.

 “However… VA has made every effort to arrange for them to meet up,” she said.

 Regarding the instructor’s failure to intervene, Gordon said he had claimed he had been unable to hear the verbal exchanges.

 The man apologised on Saturday in a meeting convened by the club, and Hleza accepted the apology. However, she said she wanted her story to be told “because… there are still people like that out there”.

 After the story was published by The Star and IOL on Monday, Virgin Active members reacted angrily on Twitter and Facebook, calling for the company to “do the right thing”.

 @victordlamini tweeted: “Truly disgraceful handling of racist bully by Virgin Active SA”, while @JoziGoddess said: “Virgin Active deals with racist patrons by asking them to apologise, as though an apology will fix racism. This whole country is not serious”.

 Virgin Active confirmed through a statement on its Facebook page that an investigation into the incident would immediately be re-opened.

 Virgin active managing director Ross Faragher-Thomas said: “I have been following this issue on Twitter and it is of real concern to me. I’ve asked my team to immediately re-open the matter as I personally want to get to the bottom of this.” - IOL



sign up
 
 

Comment Guidelines



  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.

     

Anonymous, wrote

IOL Comments
11:46am on 13 February 2012
IOL Comments

Well done sister, to Blow a whistle about this verbal ABUSE, this men needs help, he problably get away with a lot of Abuse out there, well this time you are in for it bro. I hope you are not backing off anytime soon sister, take it to Court if need be.

Report this

IOL Comments

KBF, wrote

IOL Comments
05:05pm on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

A good saying: Money don't buy class that's just my opinion SOUTH AFRICA.

Report this

IOL Comments

LK, wrote

IOL Comments
03:01pm on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

WiseDarkie..... love to meet, man, but live in Cape Town.Maybe we can connect sometime over a beer or 3 and sort out all of the world's problem's!! Much easier to be friends then make enemies. Now if only that p*eph*l at VA knew that. Maybe you should visit him and also send him one from C.T.!! CHEERS....

Report this

IOL Comments

Precious, wrote

IOL Comments
01:20pm on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

Yebo, Yes, Okay, Shout if it is normal, but consider others as well. I dont think that if the music is loud a little shouting will make any difference. The man most probably got up on the wrong side of the bed. There are some men who are bullies as well and like to throw their weight around. They should not be allowed to do as they please in a public place. I just pity his poor family though. Most proably gets away with it at home.

Report this

IOL Comments

LK, wrote

IOL Comments
11:44am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

Nozakhile.......Please my friend read my comment PROPERLY and you will see I am referring to YOU KNOW WHO (MALEMA) who openly insulted our President (Showerhead, his many wives and children, embaressed him with the Zim and Botswana issue, said Mbeki was a better leader etc, etc)insulted a foreign BBC journolist (if you agree with that; fine) insulted Zille; called all whites thieves and criminals - do you agree? insulted The Arch, Insulted Mrs Pandor(Who I had the privelage of meeting, and is a fine example of humanity)continually went on about killing the farmers.I think by now you get my point. So your openning statement is incorrect (the rest I hear you)I am only referring to this ONE individuals disgusting insults to all and sundry. Now please re - read my comment and I am sure you will understand it better next time around.And when I talk of 'two long years' I am simply talking in everyones defence who has been offended by this young mans disgusting behaviour. Can you honestly say you agree with his behaviour? And I am NOT referring to his viwpoints which DO carry merit. Insults, however carry NO weight.

Report this

IOL Comments

WiseDarkie, wrote

IOL Comments
10:22am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

@LK... Despite our sociopathic tendencies, I find your explanations making sense. We (the whole of RSA) find it fitting to cry FOUL when it's WHITE on BLACK racism but look the other way when it's BLACK on WHITE or BLACK on BLACK. Believe me the latter type exists as well! As @Nozakhile puts it "how long was apartheid around for?" Well, to the bigots on 'my side of the fence' it is OK to ill-treat whites no one dares challenge this new-found right of ours. Sad is'nt it? Let's hope our children won't have to spend half their lives trying to be politically correct. PS: Still wanna meet... How about VA Watermeyer?)

Report this

IOL Comments

Nozakhile, wrote

IOL Comments
09:32am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

LK, your comment is so lame but it still says nothing. You complain about “two long years” of being subjected to abuse...how long was apartheid around for? How long were black people oppressed, tortured and killed for? Some families still don't know where the remains of their family members are because they went missing on the way to prison for not carrying a pass. Black people still carry a lot of anger because of what happened to them and their families and friends all those years ago...sadly, some of these incidences still take place in some parts of the country. White people still have the nerve to say that they can't understand why black people can't forget about apartheid and just realise that it's over. Really??!! Is it really that simple? Do you just go to your father's grave and forget that he was killed for being black and for fighting for freedom...freedom of speech, freedom of peaceful existence? I don't think so! So, please excuse me if I take offensive at someone calling me a k*****. I refuse to except it and will make an issue of it and until white people open their eyes and realise how hurtful it is to black people, these things will keep coming up.

Report this

IOL Comments

Anonymous, wrote

IOL Comments
09:24am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

the fact that so many of you commented her just shows how sensitive you all are to racism. Now the right thing to do is to be honest about it and stop justifying it. SA is racist for so many reasons -just look at your comments for evidence. the reality is many white ppl tend to expect everyone i.e. every culture to conform to their own standards - why beacuse anything non-white - according to them -is beneath human. we are different for a reason and in public spaces we should learn to tolerate each other. Now the woman enthusiasm was evidently irritating to others- and yes noise of any sort can be very irritating. The woman should have been considerate of others. But the resonse was also unjustified. You don't insult ppl just because you can, irritated or otherwise. It says a lot about his character. I bet he says this all the time - he is clearly a very angry soul - he needs help. The guy could have easily asked her to ease up on her yebos. alternatively he could have approached the instructor or management to ask her to tone down. We have rules for a reason and public spaces are no exception. Now the VA response is appauling to say the least. To me their resposne to tell this woman that the guy she complained about is a lawyer blah blah blah says a lot. Now for those of you in SA who cannot stand non-whites please pack up n go somewhere else where you ll only find you own. I bet you are all still here coz u know this is the best plc in world for u to be. Life aint that rosy on the other side. Many of you who left are slowly coming back - ever wonder why? Now dicth all the intolerances and built this wonderul country of ours. Its the right thing to do!

Report this

IOL Comments

Rushdi, wrote

IOL Comments
09:13am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

Well done to Ms Hleza for reporting this and not backing down! Rest assured you have the support of the vast majority of South Africans! (ie: the non-bigots). Keep fighting the good fight everyone - let's not let this racist garbage carry on in our country any longer.

Report this

IOL Comments

LK, wrote

IOL Comments
08:33am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

Now, let's sum this little childish exchange up in the mature manner. For two very long years whites have been subject to extreme abuse by you - know - who, with the permission and indeed the encouragement of our esteemed 'leadership' who have really served their people well. Obviously the daily service delivery protests are not aimed at this lame duck leadership but are aimed inadvertantly at whites in general; as displayed by the under - mentioned comments which are as easy to extract as giving Tik to a druggie.Now the general reaction from the white populace on these blogs have been generally logical and non violent (please follow the comments and the history)Very few of my fellow black country men condemed the disgusting behaviour of whites being branded as thieves and criminals in front of our very esteemed President. In fact The Fat one indeed had that very charge dropped against him at his diciplinary hearing. What did the Whitey's do? Well bugger all. Now, imagine if The leader of The DA youth league called all blacks thieves and criminals; the result would have probably been instantaneous civil war. Not to mention the continual threat of killing the food manufacturers - namely the farmers. Sadly this is not being mentioned enough - I cannot even begin to think of the catastrophic result this will have if the sh** were to really hit the fan and both black and white (as demonstrated by the commentry below were to lose the plot. This is basically what I had said yesterday how close we are to real, real racial problems; the likes of which have not been seen since 'those' days. Why? Because, simply, it has been ALLOWED to happen. Unfortunately Mandela's dream of a united S.A. is history.As I also stated yesterday, this racial incident(the first one) is the tip of the ice berg. An hour later the second 'one' came out. I have my own personal opinion how some of these incidences occur and would not bother to share them with anyone; needless to say S.A. by and large will become divided by finance and class and certainly not by colour. Let us hope we can pull things together. I for one am not holding my breath. Not with current leadership at any rate, who simply cannot arrest the problems this country is facing. And any one in denial of that is simply in denial or bloody stupid.

Report this

IOL Comments

Zinzi, wrote

IOL Comments
08:22am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

Looking at our past in South Africa, racial discrimination should not be tolerated, whether the perpetrator is a white person like this "lawyer" or a black person like Julius Malema. We have come too far to allow people like this to tarnish the image of this country. Racism is simply not acceptable!!!

Report this

IOL Comments

LK, wrote

IOL Comments
08:03am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

Wise Darkie..........Awsome Idea. Any time, any place. More scared of the dark (no pun intended) Now get back on youer spinning machine. You will need to be fit my boy.....

Report this

IOL Comments

LK, wrote

IOL Comments
07:53am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

J-Hood.....Any time any place laatie. Talking of scarecrows; hows the family? OSCAR........HUH? Get educated boy....

Report this

IOL Comments

WiseDarkie, wrote

IOL Comments
07:42am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

@LK... I pray we meet. Not to trade insults, of course. You see, like you I am quite an angry soul myself. Occassionally, I go out looking for "trouble" and believe me, most South Africans are too civilised to oblige. With you, I have this feeling that I met my soulmate at last! If you mean 12 the things you spew out, I say let's meet on a monthly basis for starters. We could 'bliksem' one another for hours on end, for no reason at all. What do you say? It's WIN-WIN for both US & the SOCIETY. We let off our pent-up rage and the society is spared our sociopathic tendencies. I hail from the "boerewors dorp". Oops, I mean Tshwane.

Report this

IOL Comments

Andre from Kensington, wrote

IOL Comments
07:05am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

He said, she said! The only way out is a lie detector test because this is getting blown way out of proportion.

Report this

IOL Comments

J-Hood, wrote

IOL Comments
06:41am on 8 February 2012
IOL Comments

@LK thats all internet talk, acting all tough dont say stuff you wouldnt say when a person is infront of you...i bet you not even nice with your hands but nice with the trigger of course. You a joke clown, stick to farming and dressing up scarecrows

Report this

IOL Comments

Russell Travers, wrote

IOL Comments
10:45pm on 7 February 2012
IOL Comments

thanks iol for keeping us amused with such light-hearted fun! Always good for a giggle! See ya!

Report this

IOL Comments

Really, wrote

IOL Comments
09:21pm on 7 February 2012
IOL Comments

@confusedvictim-I think r perspective comes from a different culture expectation that in public 1 needs 2 conducts himherself in a certain social standard, meanwhile this lady's culture might be of contrast. The lesson is we need 2b tolerant of each others cultures and have some decency when approaching another human being.

Report this

IOL Comments

Oscar, wrote

IOL Comments
09:07pm on 7 February 2012
IOL Comments

LK having benefitted from years of suppressive laws and still angry at being dethroned in the most pacifist manner imagineable. The typical reaction is to throw mud at leaders who were democartically elected.

Report this

IOL Comments

hassan, wrote

IOL Comments
08:59pm on 7 February 2012
IOL Comments

I agree with anonymous. I too would find it irritating to have some individual (black, white or candy striped), screaming inanities. Keep it at home....

Report this

IOL Comments

Showing items 1 - 20 of 127