By Shandukani Mulaudzi
I grew up at Spur, I was a member of the Spur Secret Tribe and year after year, I was excited for my birthday parties there. The play area was our haven, we would play games, colour in our pretty pictures and wait for the moment where the waiters would bring the dessert with the sparkler in the centre and sing their famous Happy Birthday songs.
So when the infamous Spur incident happened I put myself in the position of that child. They were there to celebrate Lebohang Mabuya’s godchild’s third birthday. So imagine being a carefree and happy-go-lucky little girl then having another child try to spoil that by bullying you. As a child, I would think the human response to that, would be to try and defend yourself. And if the other child does not stop, then, of course, you would go to your mother and hope she would intervene.
When Mabuya spoke to HuffPost SA on the morning the video went viral, she shared with us that at that point Spur had done nothing to defend her and her child. And so it seemed to most of us that Spur had chosen the side of the white man and his child and not that of the black woman, and her children. We must understand that while race played an important role in this story being told and shared, there was also the fact that a man attacked a woman and her child.
How does a man that size become so overpowered by anger that he grabs the arm of a child to prove some point? How does a man that size not recognise that by virtue of the fact that he is a man, grabbing a child so aggressively will harm them and result in the child’s trauma? How does a man that big try to overturn a table, wave his hand in a woman’s face, threaten to klap her and hurl insults at her without everyone understanding her retaliation, her hurt and her anger? It does not make sense.
When Spur finally investigated the matter they found out that Mabuya’s story was true. They took immediate action and banned the man from their restaurants across the country. They knew and understood that he was wrong. He needed to be punished for his behaviour. One would think that after viewing the footage, all South Africans would agree that the man in the video deserved to be blacklisted.
But no. That is not how it happened. For months now, a group of Afrikaners in South Africa have refused to eat at Spur because they felt the CEO Pierre van Tonder and his team were not listening to their feelings after the man’s banning.
The CEO of trade union Solidarity, Dirk Hermann, when he was interviewed by Radio 702’s Stephen Grootes, claimed there was no organised boycott of Spur but simply a call for Spur to take notice of the unhappiness of a very big part of their customer base.
“There is client base that feels estranged and (I) said listen, the way that Spur acted against us is not acceptable, we feel it’s strange and we want to talk to you and Spur simply does not listen,” Hermann said.
He argued that Spur didn’t understand that there was a very big group of people who saw two adults fighting and behaving badly and Spur choosing a side.
It is strange to me that there are adults, parents, men and women who saw those videos and saw Spur’s response an attack on white people. If both those people were white, or if both of them were black I do not believe that Solidarity and its members would think that Spur chose a side.
When Van Tonder initially responded to Solidarity, it seemed that he was ready to defend his decision but suddenly, he has turned around and apologised “unconditionally to any person or community who has taken exception to Spur acting without a fair hearing“. He has apologised to their franchisees who have suffered a blow when they haven’t done anything wrong. Spur will now embark on a tour where they will listen to their franchisees and their clients so they understand how they can deal with future problems.
An apology of this nature leads me to believe that Spur is validating the feeling that it chose a side by banning that violent customer. Even though it has said it doesn’t want to be involved in politicking, this moment right now — this is choosing a side.
The facts are clear. The videos were there. Even the videos we didn’t see made it clear that that man was wrong, and even Van Tonder alluded to this when he said he invited Solidarity to come see this footage. Anyone who saw Spur’s reaction as a choice of black customers over white customers was not watching with an open heart. Anyone who watched that video and saw two adults fighting chose not to see the harming of that child and his mother.
Spur has officially chosen a side. It has turned its back on fighting violence against women and children for the sake of appeasing a group of people who have chosen to ignore the glaring truth of what happened at Texamo Spur