South Africa 23.8.2018 06:10 am

Racism row sees SABC sued for over R1m

Pieter van den Berg, a freelance rugby commentator who was summarily dismissed after a technical controller allegedly falsely accused him of racism, is suing the SABC for more than R1 million in damages. Picture: Ilse de Lange

Pieter van den Berg, a freelance rugby commentator who was summarily dismissed after a technical controller allegedly falsely accused him of racism, is suing the SABC for more than R1 million in damages. Picture: Ilse de Lange

Pieter van den Berg denies any racist utterings and maintains he was unlawfully fired based on ‘false and totally unfounded accusations’.

A freelance rugby commentator who was summarily dismissed after a technical controller allegedly falsely accused him of racism is suing the SABC for more than R1 million in damages.

Pieter van den Berg instituted the damages claim with the help of trade union Solidarity after the public broadcaster in May 2016, summarily terminated his two-year contract because of a complaint by a technical controller, Musa Msomi, that Van den Berg was racist and had told him that “all blacks are incompetent”.

This followed an altercation between Van den Berg and Msomi at Kings Park in Durban after the broadcast of a rugby match between the Sharks and the Hurricanes.

Van den Berg denied uttering any such words and maintained Msomi was under the influence of alcohol and that he was unlawfully fired based on “false and totally unfounded accusations”.

The SABC said in court papers Van den Berg had made a racist, offensive and hateful slur to Msomi while frustrated with the preparation and arrangements of a rugby broadcast.

The broadcaster said Van den Berg’s remarks were humiliating, disparaging, belittling and diminutive to Msomi’s human dignity, had the potential to tarnish the name of the SABC and bringing it into disrepute. They said his contract was legally terminated because he had breached the terms of their agreement.

The media manager for the Sharks, Navashni Chetty, yesterday testified about an incident after the game when Msomi accused a security guard of being racist for refusing to let him into the media centre with a glass in his hand, while allowing a white guy to enter with a glass bottle in his hand.

Chetty said Msomi was aggressive and smelled of alcohol and refused to accept the security guard was not racist but was only doing his job.

Counsel for the SABC put it to her that Msomi did not drink at all and that he had a plastic bottle with him when he was stopped.

Chetty said she knew nothing about the altercation between Van den Berg and Msomi as Msomi had not said anything about it.

Solidarity has vowed to fight to get Van den Berg reinstated as executive director of RSG Sport.

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