Company employees humiliated by altered photograph

IT all started as a group photo, but it turned very ugly.

The events took place at Lanseria Airport on the West Rand.

Five employees of a service provider for the airport were instructed to pose for a picture. Then their faces were later replaced with those of baboons.

The picture was taken in June 2009 but the humiliation has not subsided and the group still wants justice to be served.

They have accused their supervisor, Harry McGarry at the Skycare Maintenance company, of humiliating and causing them pain with the picture.

One of the men, Moshe Ramahlo, has since left the company. The others are Steven Moekeletsi, Lovemore Mchube, Michael Khumalo and Prince Makhubela.

The men allege they are called "baboons" and "k*****s".

"I felt humiliated when he (McGarry) brought the picture to us.

"He was going around showing it to other white employees, saying 'here are the baboons'. 'I work with baboons'.

"It hurt so much," said Makhubela.

He said when he confronted McGarry about the photo, McGarry told him he did not care how he felt.

Makhubela, a father of two from Diepsloot, has been working for the company for about 15 years.

"We suffer abuse every day. I'm hated here because I was the one making a lot of noise about the photo and I refuse to call my seniors baas," he told Sowetan yesterday.

"We tried to find lawyers to assist us with the matter, but none of them could."

Makhubela opened a crimen injuria case in Muldersdrift, Krugersdorp, in June last year.

But he claimed he was not informed when the case went to court.

The senior public prosecutor in Krugersdorp declined to prosecute due to in-sufficient evidence, National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said yesterday.

Mhaga said the NPA has now requested the Director of Public Prosecutions South Gauteng to review the case.

"He (the DPP) has now intervened by requesting the case docket with a view to reconsidering the matter," Mhaga said.

"We are also trying to contact the complainants to explain the current intervention by the DPP office.

"Our advocates at the DPP office will interrogate that decision and see if it was correct," he said.

McGarry denied taking the picture.

"We have nothing further to discuss. I'm not interested. The matter has been dealt with by the police," McGarry told Sowetan before hanging up.

Human Rights Commission spokesman Vincent Moaga described the matter as serious.

"It cannot be dismissed lightly. Racism is a serious matter. It is hurtful.

"We wrote to the respondent (McGarry) in November. He was given seven days to respond but has not done so.

"We are looking at alternative measures. Investigations are ongoing."

Ramahlo said he did not regret leaving the company.

"When he (McGarry) showed us the picture, he said 'cameras do not lie. You are Skycare monkeys'. I felt humiliated and angry," he said.

Police spokeswoman Captain Tebogo Kgomo said when the case was withdrawn in June, the complainants were advised to lay charges internally.

Makhubela said his boss Dave Bellingham ref-used to open a case.

"He said you can't charge a white man," he said.

Bellingham has denied the allegations.

"I know nothing about that picture. I didn't know about it until last year when the police came to our workplace after the case was reported.

"No one seems to know who superimposed the faces of the baboons on the faces of these guys in the picture.

"I have not even seen the picture. I do not know why you want to dig up the past," he said yesterday.

This article was exclusive to the printed Sowetan newspaper on 12 January 2012. We are publishing it online on 13 January 2012

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