Speaking for the first time on Friday, a “disgusted” Sun, the member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for Public Safety in the City of Joburg, told how he felt “racially abused” and “discriminated” against after the incident, which had also hurt his family.
On Wednesday, he had “graciously” agreed to accept a memorandum intended for Joburg executive mayor Herman Mashaba - who was in a two-day council meeting - during a march against state capture and corruption in front of the council’s Braamfontein chambers.
When he greeted the leadership of Cosatu - SACP leader Blade Nzimande was also present - a Cosatu leader announced to the crowd that Mashaba had sent a “fong kong” to receive the memorandum.
“I was there to represent the mayor and the City of Johannesburg, to share with the crowd our support in the fight against corruption and state capture. Unfortunately, once they ushered me on to the truck, the insults started.
“They first said Mr Mashaba was not good enough to accept the memorandum and he had to send a fong kong to accept it. There were a lot of references to the Chinese Mall. I’ve never conducted any business in a Chinese mall, not that there is anything wrong with doing business there.
“The belittling was obviously aimed to embarrass and ridicule me. What disappointed me was that the highest leadership of Cosatu was standing there smiling. Not once did they attempt to stop it or say to the person speaking that this is not right, that I was an MMC who was not there in my personal capacity but to represent the city and the people of Joburg about the so-called genuine demands of the labour federation of our country.”
An unrepentant Dumisani Dakile, Cosatu’s Gauteng provincial secretary, said on Friday there was no basis for an apology.
“Let me give you an example: if you require something and the original does not come, you are sending a fong kong. The fact is, we required Mashaba and we were not given an original. In South Africa, you only get two things - an original or a fong kong.
“That’s the context of how the reference was made.
“Second, in movies, when the boss doesn’t come, he normally sends Jet Lee. That is the context. Mashaba thinks he is acting as the boss,” said Dakile.
In an open letter, Mashaba has demanded Cosatu publicly condemn the racist comments and apologise to Sun, saying the “blatant racism brings shame” to their march.
He expected Cosatu and the SACP to apologise by the end of tomorrow.
“To belittle a senior City official is one thing, but to racially abuse a passionate and loyal South African on the basis of his looks and descendants’ origins is utterly shameful,” Mashaba lamented.
“As a black South African, and given our intimate understanding of racial abuse, I’m ashamed Michael was treated in this denigrating manner by my fellow people. Your words were an insult to every South African of Chinese descent.”
Sun said the Cosatu leadership knew who he was.
“But they called me Mr Lee, a fong kong and didn’t allow me the opportunity to speak. The speaker said he would not give me an opportunity to make myself famous.
“I felt racially abused and discriminated against but I had to hold my head up high and go back to the council meeting and deliver the memorandum to the mayor.
“We’ve come so far as a country I would never look down on anybody because of their descent, their skin colour, whether they are black, white, Chinese, Indian, Jewish or Muslim. But for political reasons, one had to bring down another fellow citizen of the country because of their skin colour and the way they look.
“I feel most disgusted.
“Although the mayor has demanded a public apology, I don’t hold my breath. I’m yet to see one Cosatu member come forward to say: ‘Look this is wrong’.
“Many of my Chinese friends and people I know in the Chinese community have been sending me messages of encouragement and I want to thank them for standing behind me.
“Unfortunately, it’s been all over - my family has seen the clip on TV. My mother sent me a video recording of it. We feel hurt inside. But I’ll grit my teeth and go on and serve the residents of this city.”
Erwin Pon, chairperson of the Chinese Association of Gauteng, said he was disturbed by the incident.
“It’s a sad day when we still get this type of discrimination, racism and stereotyping in our country.”