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White hospital staff claim racial abuse

Empty hospital corridor, waiting chairs and bed
Empty hospital corridor, waiting chairs and bed
Image: 123RF/Lucian Coman

A group of 27 white health and administration staff at the Eastern Cape's premier psychiatric hospital, Fort England in Grahamstown, have alleged they are victims of racial discrimination, abuse and hate speech.

They claim this hate speech is coming from black unionist colleagues who want to rid the institution of white managers.

The group, speaking through their union, Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa), said they had written twice to the Eastern Cape department of health's superintendent-general Dr Thobile Mbengashe seeking protection.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) Eastern Cape provincial secretary Miki Jaceni refuted the claims levelled against his union.

"Without any fear of contradiction I would like to put it on record that Nehawu is a non-discrimatory and nonracist union fighting for the rights of all workers."

In one of the letters, dated March 19, Hospersa chair Anneline Fry told Mbengashe about "intolerable working conditions, ongoing tireless victimisation and making up of false statements against white managers".

The hospital's operations manager, Stafford Allan Fry, has opened a criminal case with the Equality Court against Nehawu branch chair and former employee at the hospital Thando Mtshalala for using hate speech.

Anneline Fry told Mbengashe that her husband was left with no choice but to approach the court due to lack of action from the department of health's provincial head office.

In February, Stafford, in his approach to the Equality Court, also demanded R200000 for defamation .

Both Frys, in their letters and in the court application, called Mtshalala's behaviour "vile" and "abusive".

Mtshalala resigned on Friday but when he was approached for comment on Monday, he said: "I have been advised by my lawyer not to talk about this matter because it is in court."

He also refused to divulge his lawyer's details.

Anneline Fry said via e-mail that Mtshalala's resignation meant he was evading internal disciplinary action.

In her letters to Mbengashe, she said a recent recruitment drive at the hospital had been rigged.

Fry said three white applicants' supporting documents had "conveniently" gone missing from their application forms, which disqualified their job applications.

She also told Mbengashe that some interns in the hospital's human resources department who were part of the job awarding process were themselves applicants for the advertised positions.

Eastern Cape department of health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha confirmed that Mtshalala resigned in the middle of a probe into his conduct.

"The hospital initiated disciplinary processes, however Mr Mtshalala left the department before the finalisation of the disciplinary proceedings," Sicwetsha said.

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