Former president Nelson Mandela’s PA Zelda le Grange has been the subject of criticism after a post on coronavirus awareness, calling on employers to demonstrate to their employees how to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.
Le Grange said she had demonstrated it to her gardener and cleaner.
Her now deleted post read in part: “If you have a housekeeper, nanny, gardener or garden services, pool cleaner or anyone in your employment, demonstrate to them what a 20 second handwash looks like. Explain and show them how the virus transfers through handshake, touching, handling money, public transport, touching rails, ATMs etc. Don’t assume they know.
“I bought them Vit C tablets and a bar of soap and gave each food to take home to try and boost their family’s immune [sic].”
She has since been highly criticised for her “condescending” tone and even “racist” statements.
In response, Le Grange said she only wanted to spread awareness with her employees “purely from a place of care for their wellbeing”.
“I was told I am racist and that I questioned the intelligence of domestic workers, gardeners and the hygiene of people who have cleaned after me. That no one needs my help and that it was condescending to give them means like extra soap, vitamins etc to help them prepare for the virus. I was called every name in the book and my safety threatened.
“If I am accused of ill treating people surely I shouldn’t expose them further to this environment because those who accused me seemingly know my intentions better than I or those who know me.
“I have spent much of the last 20 years giving back in supporting people who struggle. I have done so with the purest intentions as I believe it’s only collective effort that will make this country work and every small action CAN add up in changing people’s destiny.
“I am self-employed yet I dedicate every spare minute to the welfare of those around me and their extended communities. I have made personal sacrifices over the last 30 years that I am now no longer sure had any impact. I have also lost a vast amount of work due to Covid-19 and feel an immediate impact.
“I have reached the age where if your intentions are constantly questioned you walk away as your attempts are continuously spit on [sic].
“Only a deranged person will open yourself to the amount of abuse I have endured.”
As a result, Le Grange says she plans to “terminate the casual employment” of the two people that work for her one day a week and will now do her own cleaning.
“I will carefully explain this to them as they know my intentions were pure and our relationship of such that we were involved in other things beyond my household. I clearly don’t deserve their friendship. I will apologise to them personally if they felt I harmed their dignity in any way with my briefing or demonstration. I will give them financial assistance equal to the four days a month they work for me. My heart is broken because they are my family but if my employing them degrades them I am no good for them.”
Read her full statement below:
However, this response drew further criticism from many, particularly on social media, who said firing employees because of criticism was against was Mandela stood for.
Karim Human said: “If you had not used the derogatory sentence in your first posting, you could have avoided this. You went back and edited it to what it is now. Sadly thousands saw your original post, which contradicts the way you served your country and the late Nelson Mandela, etc. I feel sorry for how distressed you are, but feel that letting 2 people go is simply an over reactive response, you are not a toddler.”
Vee Morton said: “Wow, people on this thread are really calling this woman a hero for saying don’t assume your domestic workers know how to wash their hands?”
Others have defended her against the “unfair” comments.