’My best friends are Indians’: Durban horse trainer apologises for Diwali comments
Durban - Horse trainer Frank Robinson, pictured, has been issued with an interim suspension pending the outcome of an investigation into a social media comment on fireworks.
Robinson, 51, was accused of racism and religious intolerance after he allegedly called those who lit fireworks, “a piece of sh** race” and “childish and stupid”.
He was allegedly responding to a Facebook post by a friend, George Croucher, on the treatment of animals. It is believed to have been posted last Thursday but has now been deleted.
A screenshot of the post circulated on social media and read: “The human race has to be the most selfish species on the planet, self-gratification no matter how it affects both domestic animals or our wildlife … “
Robinson commented: “Agree wholeheartedly, piece of sh** race that shows how stupid and childish they are that get excited by bright lights and big bangs. Pathetic. But as per usual who gives a f... about anything (sic).” The post was widely shared and criticised.
On Sunday, KZN racing operator, Gold Circle, issued a statement in which it distanced itself from the comments.
“The company does not tolerate any form of racial discrimination and whilst the National Horseracing Authority conducts an investigation into this matter, Gold Circle will be doing their own investigation and deciding on an appropriate course of action.”
In a follow-up statement on Monday morning, Gold Circle said a decision was made to suspend Robinson on an interim basis.
“The National Horseracing Authority confirms that it has opened an inquiry into alleged racist comments made on social media by trainer Frank Robinson.
“After careful consideration of the social media post and the prima facie evidence, the chief executive and racing control executive have placed an interim suspension on trainer Robinson in terms of the provisions of Rule 91.2.”
Gold Circle said that Robinson was prevented from entering or declaring horses under his licence until the inquiry was finalised. “In the interests of horse welfare, Mr Robinson will be permitted access to horses in his care during the period of interim suspension.”
Robinson said his comment was taken out of context and he had publicly apologised. He told the POST that he loved and respected Indian people.
“This was completely misconstrued. My best friends are Indians and I have worked with Indian owners for decades.”
Robinson said he was sick in bed for a week with a kidney problem.
“I said those things with regards to Guy Fawkes Day, not knowing the day of the week or the date. I didn’t even realise it was Diwali. I am a big animal activist and when I see the effects fireworks have on them (animals) it upsets me. My issue was with fireworks, not with any religion or race. I was referring to the human race in my post. I’m not an imbecile. I would never make such a slur. That is disgusting.”
He said he understood the need for an investigation but to suspend him was unfair.
“I’m paying for something I didn’t do. Do you know what damage this will do to my stable? I have staff I have to pay.”
Robinson apologised to those who were hurt by the comment. He said he hoped that once the investigation was finalised, it would prove the misunderstanding.
Croucher, his friend of 35 years, said Robinson’s comment was taken out of context. “Frank trains 40 horses, 30 of which are owned by Indians. I understand that the comment read in isolation looks appalling but it is not what it is made out to be.”
Croucher said he would attend the hearing, which is expected to take place this week, to clarify the matter.
“No matter what happens, there is no happy ending here. People, even if given the full story, will not believe it now.”
Racehorse owner Roy Moodley, who used Robinson as a trainer for the past 20 years, said: “Frank trained for me until the Covid-19 pandemic. I never found him to be racist and I would never have worked with him if I found him to be so.
“He is not a bad guy and I was quite surprised when I saw the comment on Facebook. I don’t think he was in the right state of mind at the time but be that as it may, it’s a mistake that he has to seriously pay for.”
The South African Hindu Dharma Sabha and the South African Hindu Youth Movement lodged a formal complaint against Robinson on Monday with the South African Human Rights and Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Rights commissions.
They reported seven other social media comments made during Diwali for religious/racist rants.
Ram Maharaj, president of the dharma sabha, said: “These remarks cited fan the flames of inter-religious friction and hatred and have the potential of inciting imminent violence.”
Vedhan Singh, president of the youth movement, said the comments were a prima facie violation of the rights of the Hindu community.
Visvin Reddy, president of the African Democratic Change (ADeC) party, called for Robinson to pay a R50 000 fine. He said the money could be shared among organisations including the Gift of the Givers, the Divine Life Society of South Africa and the Aryan Benevolent Home.
Reddy said that if no immediate action was taken, the ADeC would call for a boycott of Greyville racecourse.
"The damage has been done and people have been hurt.
“If you take away Indian support from horse racing in this country, there would be no Gold Circle."
Reddy also wrote to Gold Circle calling for Robinson's immediate suspension. He said the comments amounted to hate speech and were an insult to Indians.