Mall centre manager suspended for humiliating Ndebele activist over traditional attire

Mpho Sibanyoni Journalist
Cultural activist Thando Mahlangu can be seen in this picture being told to leave the mall due to his traditional attire.
Cultural activist Thando Mahlangu can be seen in this picture being told to leave the mall due to his traditional attire.

A Midrand mall manager who humiliated Ndebele activist and author Thando Mahlangu by hounding him out of shopping complex over his traditional attire has been suspended.

The owners of Boulders Mall announced that the manager has been suspended pending an internal investigation into the matter.

Mahlangu had taken a casual trip to the mall on Wednesday when he was told his attire was "inappropriate" and told to leave a Clicks store where he and his business partner Nqobile Masuku were shopping.

The incident which was captured on video by Masuku has sparked outrage on social media. Redefine Properties which owns the centre has apologised for the events that unfolded when Mahlangu was humiliated in front of other shoppers, calling it "regrettable".

"Redefine therefore distances itself from the degrading and undignified manner in which Mr Thando Mahlangu and Ms Nqobile Masuku were treated by the Centre Manager. The treatment meted out to Mr Mahlangu and Ms Masuku was devoid of the principles of human dignity and equality which underpin our constitutional democracy. In this vein, Redefine not only apologises to Mr Mahlangu and Ms Masuku, but it does so to the Ndebele nation as a whole and to all South Africans," said Andrew Konig, CEO, Redefine Properties in statement on Thursday.

"It is imperative for Redefine to communicate that we are alive to the fact that no outcome of an internal action is capable of undoing the pain and embarrassment the action has caused."

The company said as an immediate measure it would strengthen diversity training efforts to all its Centre Managers.

"This matter has also illuminated for us, the need to continually review and revise our internal policies on an on-going basis, in order to ensure that our policies are brought in line with the values and principles that recognise and celebrate the multitude of cultures that make up our diverse nation," said Konig.

In the video clip, the a man who describes himself as the mall owner tells Mahlangu that there was a right of admission and that he doesn't condone Mahlangu's outfit and he was must leave.

The man continues to tell Mahlangu that the mall was a public place and he was dressed indecently, while Mahlangu defends himself that he was wearing an African attire.

"You are telling me I'm not supposed to wear African [clothes] in Africa," said Mahlangu told the man.

"I'm saying this is a public place... I'm not allowing that here, this is my mall... right of admission is reserved," the man told Mahlangu.

Mahlangu's girlfriend could be heard telling the man that 'this is Africa then you can't tell someone what to do, what to wear at which mall."

In an interview with SowetanLIVE, Mahlangu said he had been left heartbroken and "even now as we speak, I'm still not fine emotionally."

He and Masuku went to the mall to shop for toiletries and have lunch when the incident happened.

"When we entered the mall we noticed a security guard staring at us.

"As soon as we walked into a Clicks store, the guard came to us and told me that I was not welcomed at the mall because I was harassing customers with my attire," Mahlangu said

"The guard told me I was merely wearing an underwear and this was chasing away customers, and due to this I was not allowed to buy at the mall. I refused to leave and I told the security guard to call the person who instructed him that he must tell me to leave the mall.

"About two minutes later, the man who identified himself as the owner of the mall arrived. He immediately started telling me to get out of the mall, but still I refused. We had heated exchanged words with the mall owner which resulted in him ordering the security to use his walkie talkie to call for reinforcement of three more guards."

He said when the guards arrived he started retreating as he realised they were going to overpower him.

"My partner and I hurriedly bought half of the items we were looking for. I am grateful that Clicks store did allow us to buy the items. However, I am disappointed that my girlfriend and I didn't have lunch at the mall, especially because we were hungry, due to the harassment," Mahlangu said.

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