Durban - A 26-year-old woman who allegedly admitted to using the K-word in reference to black passengers and a pilot in an SMS, has been suspended from work.
Alochna Moodley, who was escorted off a Kulula.com flight when the incident was brought to the airline crew’s attention, is also facing disciplinary action after the company SMC Pneumatics South Africa in Midrand, where she works, was made aware of the incident.
Moodley requested on Tuesday that she be given more time before making comment to The Mercury on the advice of her lawyer, and because things were still “very heated”. However, she reportedly told another publication that the flight being delayed had led to her frustration.
SMC Pneumatics South Africa managing director Kevin O’Carroll Tuesday said in a statement that the company did not tolerate any form of racism.
Moodley was caught out by another passenger, Reverend Solumuzi Mabuza who was sitting next to her on the Kulula flight from Joburg to Durban on Friday night. Mabuza described the incident to The Mercury on Tuesday.
“I was in the window seat and turned to her side to rest my head so I could take a nap. I happened to see her text which was in quite large font in which she told the person she was sitting between two k*****s.”
Moodley was seated between Mabuza and another passenger, Sibusiso Magubane.
“She wrote that one of the k*****s kept sniffing, I have chronic sinusitis and (she wrote) the other was reeking of alcohol but Magubane said he does not drink. She also referred to the pilot (Captain Menzi) Mvelase.”
Gobsmacked, Mabuza said he had to look at the message twice before he realised he was not dreaming that he was being called the K-word.
Mabuza that said when he questioned Moodley about the offensive text, she asked him what gave him the right to read her private texts. He called a flight attendant to ask if they had a policy against racism, and told her why.
Kulula spokesperson William Smook said after Mabuza alerted the flight staff and captain, it was decided that the plane should return to the ramp and the ramp controller was asked to escort Moodley off the plane.
“Once she was off, the flight continued. We do not tolerate discrimination of our passengers and crew, they should be able to fly in comfort,” said Smook.
He also denied the flight was delayed, which Moodley reportedly said was the reason for the frustration which had driven her to use the racially discriminatory term.
Smook said that while it was late in the evening - after 10pm - the flight was on time. Instead it had been Moodley who ended up delaying the flight.
Mabuza said Moodley remained defiant even when other passengers asked her to apologise.
“I get the sense that she believes in what she wrote, so what’s the use of apologising? I’m still trying to calm myself. I’m a pastor I shouldn’t lose my cool, but in this instance there was no way I could keep quiet.”
Mabuza said what was most shocking was that a young person was so comfortable adopting racist slurs used during apartheid.
“I think it is not helpful to be sensational about these issues just to win arguments. I think what is necessary is to pause and take time to ask ourselves what is happening in society.”
Regarding Moodley’s suspension, Mabuza said there must be consequences, otherwise racist attitudes would persist. He does, however, wish to talk with Moodley about the incident.
Her “racist attitude” was condemned by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation in a statement on Tuesday. The foundation’s executive director Neeshan Balton called it repulsive. “We are tired of hearing the excuse, ‘Yes I used those words, but’”
Balton said Moodley should not only apologise but also undergo anti-racism and diversity training to overcome her prejudiced views.
“We would like to remind her that racism is a serious issue. Calling someone the ‘k-word’ is not a ‘little offense’. It is highly offensive and deserves media and public attention and condemnation.”