Cape Town – A “pressure cooker of inequality” is leading to weaker racial relations and government needs to create policy to turn this around, the Institute of Race Relations says.
Mienke Steytler, the head of media and public affairs of the Institute for Race Relations, said there seemed to be an increase in the number of race-related incidents.
“Whether the increase is true or whether incidents are just reported on more frequently is unclear,” she said.
This came after two race-related incidents were reported within as many days this week.
In the most recent incident, IOL reported that associate professor Xolela Mangcu and Haas Collective restaurant owner Francois Irvin accused each other of racism and laid crimen injuria charges following an altercation about an omelette.
Mangcu reportedly ordered a “soft omelette” on Thursday, after the one he had had the day before was not the texture he had wanted. Mangcu reportedly claimed the chef gave him a lecture and he called the manager as he felt he had been treated disrespectfully.
Irvin then told him that as he had an issue with the omelettes he should leave the restaurant. Mangcu claimed Irvin called him a criminal and threatened to phone the police.
Irvin reportedly countered that Mangcu was the racist and that he called the chef a “coloured servant” who he did not want to deal with.
According to IOL, Irvin said Mangcu had been to his establishment before and was always rude to his staff. He denied calling Mangcu a criminal.
On Wednesday, journalist Philip Owira accused Woodstock Cycleworks in Cape Town of being racist and unprofessional.
He claimed shop owner Nils Hansen racially profiled him and a friend, insinuated that they had stolen a bicycle belonging to a friend, which Owira brought in for a service, and escorted them from the shop.
Hansen said the incident was “a joke” and “literally hilarious”. Owira described it as blatant racism.
Advocate Johan Kruger, director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, said race would remain a sensitive issue.
“That is why it is so important to focus on the value of non-racialism in the context of dignity and achieving equality. Non-racialism and unity in diversity do not mean to deny racial or any other differences, but to embrace it and to work towards a common future based on mutual respect,” he said.
“Due to our past, racial stereotypes, perceptions and preconceived ideas about each other persist. This is perpetuated by a lack of mutual respect in general.
“Although we are still a hugely unequal society when it comes to economic prosperity, current legislation and policies aimed at restorative justice and transformation are achieving quite the opposite. To a certain extent, the latter legislation and policies – including so-called cadre deployment – benefit only a small number of people, hence further perpetuating animosity.”
Kruger said the tendency of politicians to “revert to race in order to garner support and votes is a disservice to the notion of non-racialism and a driver of racial tensions in general”.
Steytler also insisted policy reform was essential.
“Our democracy is young, yes, but by deregulating labour legislation somewhat, to make it easier for businesses to hire employees, for example, will go a long way in creating jobs and improving the economy.