ConCourt to rule on use of term ‘swart man’

A dispute at work between two men culminating in the use of the term swart man was heard by the Constitutional Court yesterday.

Meyer Bester was fired in May 2013, following an incident where he had stormed into a meeting at his workplace at the Thembelani mine in Rustenburg.

Bester was not happy with the fact that a parking bay next to his had been given to a fellow employee, Solly Tlhomelang, by safety officer Ben Sedumedi.

On April 26‚ Bester had stormed into a safety meeting, chaired by Sedumedi, and said in a loud and aggressive manner that Sedumedi must “verwyder daardie swart man se voertuig [remove that black man’s vehicle]”.

Bester was dismissed following a disciplinary hearing for misconduct and making racial remarks.

However‚ the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration declared Bester’s dismissal was inappropriate and ordered his return to work with back pay.

Unhappy with this decision‚ his employer approached the Labour Court‚ which found in December 2015 that Bester’s dismissal was substantially and procedurally fair.

The Labour Court found that taken into context‚ Bester’s referral to Tlhomelang as a swart man was derogatory and racist.

But Bester approached the Labour Appeal Court‚ which upheld his appeal in May this year.

His employer argued in the Constitutional Court yesterday that Bester should have been dismissed for his utterances.

Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga asked whether it would be improper not to factor in the South African reality that although the legally sanctioned racist past had been replaced by democracy‚ racism had not disappeared.

“Would it be improper in an inquiry [on the use of the words in context]‚ not to factor [in] the reality that those who are at the receiving end to this racism are swart manne [black men] and swart vrouens [black women]‚” Madlanga asked Advocate AP Landman‚ who is representing Bester.

Madlanga also then asked why it was necessary for Bester to use the description of swart man, when referring to Tlhomelang.

Landman admitted it was unnecessary to do so – and that there had been a measure of irritation on Bester’s part. – TimesLIVE

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