PLAINTIFF: Hendri Herbst and Stan, his guide dog, who has since died, are involved in a groundbreaking case involving alleged discrimination at a winery restaurant against someone with a disability.
Cape Town - A blind Paralympic athlete has taken well-known winery Durbanville Hills to the Equality Court after they refused him and his guide dog entry to their restaurant.

Swimmer Hendri Herbst visited the restaurant in 2014 after showing his girlfriend’s parents and grandmother around the city. When they arrived, the hostess allegedly told Herbst the restaurant has a policy against dogs and he and his party would have to sit outside.

After explaining that his dog is a guide dog he relies on, he was still refused entry and told to sit outside. Herbst was also told to be accompanied to the bathroom by a male in his party, as he couldn’t take his guide dog.

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“It was humiliating for me and my company, who were also affected. She had the audacity to refuse me and I didn’t want to make a major scene because it was my girlfriend’s parents’ last day in Cape Town. Her granny was so upset that she didn’t want anything.

“It effectively says you’re not worthy to come into their restaurant. You and your guide dog are a unit. Would you also ask someone with a wheelchair to leave it outside? It’s shocking to experience 24 years after democracy,” he said.

The Stellenbosch University Law Clinic, who represent Herbst, said it was a potentially groundbreaking unfair discrimination case, despite Durbanville Hills winery alleging that the claim has lapsed.

Dr Theo Broodryk, head of the law clinic, said the case was significant as it would be the first time a South African superior court would rule on whether it constitutes unfair discrimination to refuse blind people entry to an establishment because they are accompanied by a guide dog.

He said it was also significant in that it would provide clarity on the legal position when a marginalised person’s claim lapses because of a court official’s failure to serve documents in time.

Law Clinic attorney Monja Posthumus-Meyjes said South Africa lacks legislation specifically aimed at protecting people with disabilities despite having signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Promotion of Equality.

“The White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published in March 2016 is progressing at a snail’s pace. Herbst’s case presents an important opportunity to give new momentum to legislative efforts aimed at protecting persons with disabilities from widespread discrimination,” said Posthumus-Meyjes.

Durbanville Hills spokesperson Dennis Matsane denies unfair discrimination against Herbst and denies any of their employees refused him access.

“It’s Durbanville Hills’ policy that blind people and their guide dogs are welcome to visit any part of the public areas of the basement and restaurant.

“Durbanville Hills’ buildings are also equipped with ramps and an elevator to accommodate people in wheelchairs.

“Durbanville Hills also denies Herbst’s claim that he was refused permission to use the restaurant’s toilet facilities unless a male member of his company accompanied him.

“As a company, Durbanville Hills respects diversity and is committed to treating everyone in such a way,” said Matsane.

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Cape Argus