The hate-filled samoosa

An American tourist's innocent question about the filling of a samoosa unleashed a tirade of anti-US hate speech and a death threat by a knife-wielding Simon's Town cafe owner.

With the knife held to his throat, the tourist was bombarded by a torrent of abuse about US President George Bush and America's invasion of Iraq.

This was evidence on Friday in the Simon's Town magistrate's court where the cafe owner, Abdul Hoosen, 67, was convicted of assault. The American, Russell Dicky, 36, flew more than half way around the world to see justice done.

Magistrate Willem Cornelius fined Hoosen R1 500 or 30 days in prison and declared him unfit to own a firearm. Dicky flew to Cape Town from San Diego, California, with his mother, Sylvia Hagen, specifically to have his day in court.

The drama unfolded in October when Dicky, who works in radio broadcasting, visited Simon's Town for the day while holidaying in Cape Town. He stopped at a cafe in Main Road near the railway station for a samoosa, which was on the counter next to wrappers with a sign reading R2.

Dicky told the court he had picked up a samoosa and put it in a bag and said to Hoosen: "By the way, what's in the samoosa?"

He said Hoosen had looked at him for a moment and then said: "You Americans ask stupid questions."

"I said pardon me, and he said: 'You Americans are very stupid'."

Dicky said he then asked for his money back, but Hoosen came at him with a long serrated kitchen knife.

"He said: 'Listen to me; listen to me; listen to me. I will kill you. I will kill you. You don't mean anything to me'."

Dicky said the knife had been at his throat. "I was edging out of the store but he was walking towards me. I was horrified and spellbound."

Dicky said Hoosen then started with hate speech.

"He went on about the United States and George Bush and Iraq."

Dicky said a young man, who turned out to be Hoosen's 15-year-old son, appeared and tried to pacify his father.

"I explained that I wanted my money back and an apology and then I would leave."

Dicky told the court Hoosen's son took the knife from his father but the verbal abuse continued.

"He said to me: 'Are you from California? Because all men from California sleep with other men and are all homosexual'."

Dicky said a group of about 20 people had gathered to watch the exchange, but no one did anything.

He said he had been distraught and terrified and was scared that Hoosen would carry out his threat to kill him. He said he hadn't provoked Hoosen and believed he was anti-American.

Dicky told Weekend Argus that after the incident he went to the Simon's Town tourist office where Sue Sturman, who was then the tourist officer, helped him and took him to the police station to lay charges.

Sturman, who was in court to support Dicky on Friday, told Weekend Argus so much effort had been made to make the town hospitable to visitors that it was unthinkable for such an incident to happen.

During sentencing Cornelius said Dicky had been a good witness and it was highly improbable that he would have made up such detailed evidence. He said it boggled the mind that a citizen of another country would simply invent the incident.

Cornelius said he would take into account the fact that the assault had been totally unprovoked but also that Hoosen was not a young man and that he had been a fixture in Simon's Town for many years without any prior convictions.

He added that the court needed to ensure people kept their tempers and didn't let their thoughts spill over into violence, especially when it was political.

Hoosen, who pleaded not guilty and told the court he could not recollect the incident, apologised to Dicky afterwards and asked for his forgiveness, which was given.

Dicky told Weekend Argus he was glad he'd made the trip and felt it had been worth it.

"It was about a principle. I didn't really want him to get a prison sentence but I'm glad that justice has been done and that he was found guilty in a court of law."

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