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Luzuko Pongoma

Luzuko Pongoma

Racism has stopped construction work on the Gautrain project in Midrand.

The work, which includes the construction of a railway line and an overhead bridge, stopped on Monday morning.

When Sowetan visited the site yesterday workers were milling around, vowing not to return to work until a white supervisor they accused of racism was fired.

Trouble started on Friday morning when Thabo Bolofo, 33, had a seizure. He said when he came around, the supervisor - identified as Stephan van Tonder - assaulted him for feigning it.

A witness said Van Tonder called Bolofo a "k**ir and a drug pusher".

"I told my supervisor that I was sick before I collapsed," Bolofo said. "When other employees tried to help me, the white man assaulted me.

"He then took me to the office [a shipping container used as an office] and banged my head against the wall until I blacked out."

Richard Mbombo, who witnessed the assault, said the supervisor was upset after Bolofo broke a first aid instrument.

"The white man said 'you f**ing k**ir where are the drugs you took before coming to work'," he said.

Mbombo said that when he followed the supervisor to the container, he found him assaulting Bolofo.

He said that an ambulance was later called but Bolofo was not taken to the private hospital across the road where injured employees are usually taken. Instead he was taken to Tembisa Hospital from which he was discharged yesterday.

In response, about 2000 workers downed tools on Monday and have vowed to continue the strike until racism on the construction site was dealt with by Gautrain management.

Yesterday a manager gave the workers an ultimatum to return to work before the end of the day or face disciplinary action.

The supervisors at the project referred Sowetan to Bombela spokesman Modelize Theron, who said she was not aware of the strike or the alleged racist incident.

"I know of a guy who had a seizure at the plant but I do not know of any strike," she said before abruptly ending the call.