Two sides to race slur accusationComment on this story
The complainant: Juan Meyer and his bodyguard
Who is he? He is a former business associate of Radovan Krejcir, and is named on an alleged hit list found during a raid at Krejcir’s home. Meyer was also arrested in May 2010 after he was discovered driving in a private unmarked security vehicle transporting more than R10 million in smelted gold.
What he says happened. Meyer claims his bodyguard was racially abused at Virgin Active in Centurion. Two members at the fitness club called Mohammed Fall a k****r four months ago.
According to Fall he was told to tell a couple to stop making fun of Meyer while he was training at the gym. “They were provoking Mr Meyer and making rude comments about him while he was gymming. I was asked to go and speak to them to tell them to please stop. I asked them nicely to leave him (Meyer) alone so that he can train nicely.”
That’s when the two members started to racially abuse him, Fall says. “They first called me a k****r to my face, and than asked what a k****r was doing in this gym.”
Meyer says he and Fall reported the incident to the manager who was not at all helpful.
“I went home that day and was furious, but thankfully my wife calmed me down. Those members looked at me like I’m a dirty black and I wasn’t allowed to go to gym there,” Fall says.
The pair want the couple’s membership terminated and an apology, and are threatening legal action. Meanwhile, Meyer has terminated his contract.
What is this? It’s a fitness club associated with British adventurer and businessman Sir Richard Branson.
What they say happened.
Les Aupiais, head of strategic communications at Virgin Active, says Meyer never submitted a formal or laid a direct complaint about the alleged racism incident.
“(Meyer) has two or three versions of an alleged racial incident he claims happened in February, a matter he brought up only after he was called to a meeting by club general manager and senior staff to discuss verbal abuse of Virgin Active staff and illegal use of disabled parking bays,” says Aupiais.
Virgin Active also alleges Meyer verbally abused staff, made death threats, threatened to damage staff vehicles and club equipment, and intimidated club members.
“In a telephone conversation with our public-relations department, he claimed he would ‘do his best to take Virgin Active down’ or make sure we ‘never sign up another member’.”
Aupiais says the fitness club has a substantial fact “file” on Meyer.
This includes written statements, audio files and CCTV footage, showing his alleged abuse of Virgin Active members and staff.
Aupiais says in addition to this alleged threatening behaviour, Meyer insisted on parking in the disabled parking bays because, he claimed, his life was under threat.
“This is deeply disturbing and upsetting to other club members, several of whom have laid complaints or terminated their membership in order to avoid his threatening and intimidating behaviour.
“On balance, Virgin Active has concluded our clubs – places where families are welcome to train in safety and comfort – do not meet Mr Meyer’s needs.”
The club has suspended Meyer’s membership.