Limpopo building owner opens case against newspaper

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

The owner of a Limpopo building which allegedly has segregated toilets has opened a case of defamation against the Sowetan newspaper, Limpopo police said on Friday.

“One case of defamation of character was opened on November 5 by the owner of the building against the Sowetan newspaper for publishing the story,” said Colonel Ronel Otto.

“It was opened at the Makhado police station.”

Otto could not provide any further details.

The Sowetan reported on Wednesday that the Vleissentraal office block in Louis Trichardt allocated toilets according to race groups.

The building’s owner Bennie van der Merwe confirmed on Friday that he had opened a case against the newspaper.

“The allegations are not true. The newspaper didn’t even consult us. They didn’t phone us for comment,” he said.

He also took issue with its ‘Whites only’ headline. He claimed the newspaper was defaming the office park.

Van der Merwe said another case of intimidation was also opened with the police.

READ MORE: Racial segregation claims at Limpopo building

“We received threatening smses from an EFF member who threatened to burn our building, but the EFF claims it’s not from them.”

Otto was checking on the intimidation case and could not immediately confirm it.

The building’s manager Rina van Schalkwyk received two text messages on her cellphone.

One read: “I’m a no-nonsense Chief Justice of EFF “Aubrey Setlhalogile” in Brits. Should I hear toilet discrimination in the media again about VLEISSENTRAAL I’ll f*** U up!”

Another message read: “Black & White people must fuckin’ use the same f****** TOILETS ok B****?U want the so called Vleissentraal up in flames? then carry on with that stupid tendency!”

Economic Freedom Fighters spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi could not be reached to verify if Setlhalogile is a member of the party.

EFF Limpopo convenor Michael Mathebe and provincial co-ordinator George Raphela could also not be reached.

The Sowetan reported that business tenants at the office block convened a meeting after they had had enough of the segregation and humiliation at the office park.

“There are four toilets in this building. One is for black females, one for black males, one for white and coloured females, and the last one is used by one white male,” a businessman, who did not want to be named, was quoted as saying.

READ MORE: Segregated toilets not true – owner

“The toilets are always locked and before we can use them we have to ask for the keys from the white lady managing the building.”

Other tenants, who did not want to be named, also spoke to the newspaper about the alleged racism.

On Thursday, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) confirmed that it had began an investigation into the allegation.

Spokesman Isaac Mangena said its investigators had visited the building and found the allegations in the media to be true.

“We got in touch with the owner of the building and he says he was not aware of the toilet situation,” he said.

Mangena said if the SAHRC did not get co-operation from the building owner it would take the matter to the Equality Court.

“The final resort is to go to court if the landlord does not co-operate,” he said.


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