Black security guards angry at ‘baboon’ slur

ONE of Nelson Mandela Bay’s major security companies has been accused of turning a blind eye to racism following claims that a coloured manager called black staff baboons.

Three security guards alleged that Metro Security Services site supervisor Brandon Fortuin called workers baboons when reprimanding them for chatting over their work radios in isiXhosa about soccer.

The three guards refused to be named for fear of victimisation.

They said the Security Officers Civil Rights and Allied Workers’ Union (Socrawu) and the National Security and Unqualified Workers’ Union (Nasuwu) were aware of the matter but were “silent” on the issue.

They also questioned why Fortuin had not been suspended pending the investigation by the company.

Metro Security Services director Rowlin Adonis confirmed that the incident had been reported to the company.

“In line with our policies, when Fortuin was served with the hearing documents there was no reason to believe that he would interfere with any witnesses, so there were no grounds for suspension,” he said.

“Metro Security Services rejects all forms of racism, which is underpinned by our company policies and procedures.

“Dismissals for racial behaviour have occurred in the recent past, which underlines the company’s intolerance of racial matters.”

Adonis declined to comment further as the case had not yet been finalised.

The guards said the alleged incident had happened in October when they were discussing soccer over their security radios.

They claimed Fortuin had told them the radios were not meant for discussions about soccer, that they should not speak isiXhosa and that anyone doing so was a baboon.

They said nothing had happened since a disciplinary hearing against Fortuin began last month.

In a recording submitted as evidence against Fortuin to the disciplinary hearing, a man’s voice can be heard saying that “all the people who play over the radio are baboons”.

The man says: “Just give me your name and I will get to you and I will drag you. Don’t be a coward man and talk over the radio.

“A baboon [does] something that is cowardness (sic). That’s why I call all the people who play on this radio baboons.

“This radio is here for the safety of your colleagues as well as yourself, so [don’t] play over the radio.

“We are not interested in soccer. We are interested in working here Meneer [Mister].” One of the guards said yesterday Fortuin had instructed them to speak in English.

“But we are most comfortable when we speak isiXhosa, which is one of the official languages in South Africa as far as we understand,” he said.

Fortuin would neither confirm nor deny calling the guards baboons.

“You know what happened? There was a misunderstanding there, but I would advise you to call the human resources department. I do not want to comment on this,” he said.

One of the guards alleged that Fortuin was being protected by the company. “He [Fortuin] continues with his duties as if nothing happened. It is disgusting and painful to us black people who work for this company,” the man said.

“This is racism and if we do not address it, we will continue being called baboons and being abused.”

Another said the company should take action against Fortuin to show it did not tolerate racism.

“They are protecting him even though he faces a very serious offence,” he said.

“Even when they called him to appear before a disciplinary committee, it is as if they were doing it for the sake of doing it, because nothing has been done yet.

“To us it looks as if it was just a formality, but we want an outcome no matter what it is.”

Nasuwu shop steward Zanomuso Nogantshi said they had taken up the matter with the company.

“But we are still waiting for internal processes so we cannot comment until there is an outcome of that hearing,” he said.

Socrawu shop steward Kwanele Maqetseba said while they had heard about the incident, it had never been reported to them.

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