Cops probe claim that manager called broker ‘a monkey’

Image: file pic

The police have been roped in to investigate claims that a Port Elizabeth short-term insurance company team leader called two employees monkeys.

A complaint of crimen injuria was opened at the Mount Road police station at about 10.30am on Thursday.

The case stems from an internal complaint of racial misconduct that was filed at Alexander Forbes Short Term Insurance on Tuesday – shortly after the incident.

Alexander Forbes has since commissioned an independent external investigation for clarity on the claims.

This was the second case of crimen injuria to be opened in the Bay within hours after another complaint – relating to a comment on The Herald’s Facebook page – was lodged.

In an interview, the 33-yearold insurance broker, who did not want to be identified for fear of being victimised, said he had decided to escalate his complaint to the police and the SA Human Rights Commission after he learnt that he had not been the only one allegedly called a monkey in Afrikaans.

“I was sitting at my desk busy with performance assessments when my manager came to assist me after I had a query.

“Advice was given and then he left. I then got up to go the bathroom and as I walked past him and another woman at the photocopy machine, she asked me how far the performance assessments were.

“The manager said in Afrikaans that he doesn’t mind as he is not waiting for ‘that monkey’,” the broker alleged.

“I was so shocked that I did not even know what to say.

“I went outside and a few minutes after he also came outside,” the broker said.

“I told one of my colleagues to stand between us as I was just so angry.

“A brief confrontation then ensued as I wanted to know what he meant.

“He then said it was directed at someone else.”

The complaint was escalated to the provincial manager in writing a short while later.

“I have still not had a response,” the broker said.

“I explained the incident to him and he asked for it in writing, so I e-mailed it to him by Tuesday afternoon,” he said.

“I was expecting some form of response but heard nothing.

“As word travelled around the office, I spoke to another colleague who was also [allegedly] called a monkey.”

The other alleged victim, a 37-year-old who works in the same division at the broker, said in an interview that at the time he thought it was a joke.

“I originally thought it was a joke. He [the manager] asked me, ‘monkey, where are you sitting?,’ he said.

“I did not think anything of it until I heard that it happened again a short while later.”

He approached Patriotic Alliance northern areas constituency leader Gary van Niekerk for advice after the company failed to communicate.

“I was contacted and am totally shocked that this could happen,” Van Niekerk said.

“I cannot believe that in this day and age this is still happening. The fact that the company has failed to give answers to the complainant on what is being done just shows that they are hoping it goes away.

“We cannot allow this to happen,” Van Niekerk said.

“This is an unfortunate racial incident and such hate speech cannot be tolerated. “It cannot be allowed. “For us it does not matter what race the person is who is being called a monkey; the fact is it was said in a derogatory manner to belittle the person.”

Patriotic Alliance human resources and labour head Cassius Verhoog said he had consulted with the 33-year-old employee and had advised him to open a criminal complaint and to file a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission.

“We are assisting him with taking this forward.

“It is in the interest of everyone to ensure that these types of derogatory terms never get used,” Verhoog said.

“People are often too scared to stand up and talk about this, which is why we are here to show our support.

“I will be guiding him through the processes and taking this up.

“All we are asking is for the company to investigate this to make sure it does not reoccur.

“They have not bothered to respond to the victim’s request for action or a probe, which suggests they are trying to sweep it under the carpet.”

Alexander Forbes CEO Dawie de Villiers said: “The company immediately instituted an internal investigation once the allegations came to light.

“Given the nature and seriousness of the allegations, the company has instituted an independent external investigation, the outcome of which will determine the way forward.

“Alexander Forbes can confirm that we do not condone any form of unfair discrimination or abuse.”

Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu confirmed that two separate cases had been opened in relation to two different matters.

“I can confirmed that two cases were opened.

“[They] were unrelated and one was involving a Facebook comment and the other a dispute at work.

“Both cases have been given to the detectives for investigation,” Naidu said.

The one case involved a Facebook comment that had been posted in response to a published story.

In that case, a 36-year-old man took offence to a comment on The Herald’s Facebook page in relation to an article regarding a teacher, from Westville Girls’ High School, who was suspended after allegedly telling pupils that white people were generally smarter than people of colour.

The article was published on August 7 and almost 400 comments were posted.

One reader made a comment condoning the teacher’s actions, resulting in several others lashing out.

A complaint was opened at the Mount Road police station on Thursday.

Naidu said that after the probe, the cases would go to the National Prosecuting Authority to make a decision on how to proceed.