Durban - A historic Durban club, once the bastion of well-to-do whites during the apartheid era, was the setting for an ugly row involving Indian patrons.
Preggy Moodley, 60, a regular customer at an eatery at the Durban Bowling Club in Greyville, claimed that he went to the club’s bar on Sunday to return a glass when an elderly white man shouted, “the “f***ing Indians are still here”.
“When I confronted him, he said it wasn’t directed at me but to the group that was sitting outside.”
A short while later, it is alleged the man walked into the dining hall where another Indian patron was sitting and said, “There are no humans here”.
Earlier in the day, a panic button was allegedly pressed when three black customers walked into the pub.
Linda Naidoo, who owns the club’s restaurant, Linda’s Hot Pot, said this was not the first racial encounter since she began operating there at the beginning of the year.
“They approached us to rent the kitchen and told us we can use the bar area, but then we were told the men at the club didn’t like it,” she told POST.
“It has become such a hostile environment, I don’t even feel like going back there, but I have to.”
She said she was also losing business because of the glares her customers get.
“The club members make it so uncomfortable that some of them hate to come back.”
Naidoo claimed that the president of the club, Charmaine Wiblin, had been trying to evict her since February.
“She had a meeting with me, complaining about the patrons and music. It was minor issues, nothing concrete.”
She was also told some patrons “do not like the smell from the kitchen”, she said.
“In March I was eventually asked to leave. I was given one month’s notice.”
Naidoo said she had signed a one-year lease that expires in January 2019, so she refused to budge, despite being given another eviction notice at the end of April.
On June 1, Wiblin allegedly instructed Naidoo to pack her stuff and leave. “That’s when I started fighting it.”
She obtained an interim court interdict against the club preventing it from evicting her.
Outraged by the alleged goings-on at the club, another patron, Kris Moodley, has written to the mayor’s office and the regional and national chairpersons of the bowling clubs, saying “racist behaviour and vulgarity” belonged to the apartheid era, not in 2018.
“This behaviour cannot and should not be tolerated in our society under any circumstances whatsoever,” he wrote. “I therefore appeal to you to investigate the following and take appropriate action, where necessary.”
He said the perception among Naidoo’s customers, including him, was that the lease had been terminated because her client base was predominantly Indian, and the members of the club, who are predominantly white, were not comfortable with Indians using the club facilities.
“Instead of embracing their fellow South Africans and seizing the opportunity of marketing the club to this new client base, these members are selfishly myopic and backward thinking,” he wrote.
He said last weekend’s alleged racist taunting resulted in a serious altercation and that a crimen injuria charge was being lodged with police.
Moodley also claimed applications from four Indians to become members of the club had not yet been approved.
Wiblin was asked to comment, but declined.
Charles Levy, vice-president of Bowls South Africa, said he was not mandated to make comment to the press and had referred the matter to their executive committee.