The stage is set for an Equality Court hate speech battle between the Gautrain operators and an Ndebele cultural activist, who was allegedly kicked off the rapid transit train because of his traditional attire last year.
The Citizen reported in November last year how Thando Mahlangu was allegedly publicly humiliated and kicked out of the Gautrain station in Johannesburg because his traditional garb was deemed “inappropriate”.
The 34-year-old, from KwaMhlanga in the former KwaNdebele homeland, had taken the train from Pretoria to Johannesburg and went about his errands. On his return, Mahlangu was told he was no longer welcome aboard the train.
Gautrain operators, Bombela Concession Company, have since apologised to Mahlangu but the cultural activist would have none of it and demands R1.5 million in damages for humiliation.
Mahlangu’s lawyer, Nqabayethu Buthelezi, said they have been given July 25 as the date of the preliminary hearing, which he said was for the Equality Court to iron out administrative issues.
He said their replying affidavit will be filed by Monday.
“This matter has taken long and we are fired up that it will finally be heard. What encourages us is that the Equality Court is quite fast and, once the hearing starts, the matter should be wrapped up in no time,” Buthelezi said.
Mahlangu’s lawyers argue that his right to dignity was violated, he was humiliated in public just for being himself, denied a public service and was instead treated like a criminal.
Kesagee Nayager, Bombela Concession Company spokesperson, confirmed receipt of the notice to appear in court.
“We respect the rule of the law and will await for the court’s outcome in this regard,” she said.
Mahlangu said he was hopeful that his dignity will be restored by the court, saying he was deeply hurt by the incident, which he said made him feel small in his proud attire.
“Not only was my dignity hurt but also that of my people, AmaNdebele and that of Africans. I wondered how many people have experienced this and did not stand up for their rights. I will not back down. I will see this through,” he said.
He called on people to dress up in their traditional attires and support him on this David and Goliath legal tussle.