The South African Indian owner of a branch of the restaurant chain Wimpy has threatened to seek intervention from the top rights body after an African union boss accused her of attempting to exercise Indian labour law here.
Nina Naidoo, who runs an outlet of Wimpy at the popular casino and entertainment resort Emperor’s Palace north of here, told the Sunday Times Extra that Mheli Magutywa, a senior official of the South African Workers’ Organisation (SAWO), had refused to withdraw remarks he made in a letter which she considered to be racist.
The letter, written after allegations that Naidoo had illegally deducted money from the salaries of some employees, said among other things: "This is South Africa; everyone has freedom of choice, including joining a union.
"Perhaps in India you have no such things like what we have here in South Africa, the labour laws in particular. So do not try to exercise Indian laws here in this country." Naidoo said: "I was not born in India and am disgusted by his letter. I am just as much a South African as he is. I would like him to apologise." But Magutywa told the Extra that he felt no need to apologise.
"I was just telling the truth. Naidoo is trying to manipulate her employees and undermining the rules of this country," he said.Jody Kollapen, the chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission who is also of Indian origin, said the reality was that a large majority of South Africans who happen to be of Indian origin consider themselves to be South Africans and not Indians.
"Our first loyalty is to South Africa," Kollapen said.
Jones Monaisa of the Restaurant and Food Services’ Association, which represents employers in labour disputes, told the Extra that Magutywa had misused his position as a union official.
"There are obviously racial connotations in his letter, and one would assume that he is not in line with the Labour Relations Act that promotes collective bargaining and goodwill between the employer and employee."