Ndebele cultural activist Thando Mahlangu claims he was not only humiliated and kicked off a Gautrain station for wearing his traditional attire, but he was also “manhandled” and treated like a criminal – and now wants R1.5 million in damages.
According to a letter of demand, which The Citizen has seen, Mahlangu’s attorney’s stated that “while he was made to wait for the security supervisor and other management to arrive, he was manhandled and treated like someone who had committed a criminal offence”.
Early this month The Citizen reported how Mahlangu was allegedly humiliated and barred from riding the train from Park Station to Hatfield, Pretoria, where he had a business meeting – which he missed and claimed he lost out on a R4,500 deal because of the incident.
The alleged incident also shocked Gauteng transport MEC Ismail Vadi, as well as Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who both slammed Gautrain management.
The letter of demand, from Isaac Attorneys, dated November 9, states that the manner in which Mahlangu was addressed and treated publicly shamed him, as he was made a spectacle because of his garb.
His lawyers also state that barring him from getting on the train on the grounds that he was dressed in traditional Ndebele attire amounted to unlawful discrimination.
They state Mahlangu’s “indignity and humiliation” was compounded by the company’s alleged failure to apologise to Mahlangu in person, other than the public apology issued to the media.
“In the circumstances, we are instructed to demand from you, as we hereby do, that you immediately pay our client a total amount of R1,500,000 in damages,” the letter reads.
The spokesperson for Gautrain’s operators Bombela Concession Company, Kesagee Nayager, confirmed receipt of the letter of demand, saying the letter “has been passed on to the insurers and their attorneys will respond accordingly”.
She, however, said it was not true that the company had failed to apologise to Mahlangu in person.
“When we contacted him, he referred us to his attorney. We apologised telephonically,” said Nayager.