Jose Maponyane, the centre manager of Boulders Mall in Midrand, says the incident of him arguing with a customer was taken out of context. This was heard during a hearing at the CRL Commission, where Maponyane appeared to tell his side of the story, following a complaint by Ndebele activist, Thando Mahlangu.

In March, Maponyane allegedly forced Mahlangu to leave the mall for being dressed in traditional regalia.

Mahlangu was inside a store at the mall when he was told that his dress code was inappropriate.

Maponyane was suspended shortly after a video of the altercation went viral on social media.

The CRL Commission summoned Maponyane to allow him the opportunity to explain the sequence of events that occurred at the Boulders Mall on 24 March.

CRL Rights Commission holds hearings on the Boulders Mall incident:

Maponyane told the commission that he apologised profusely for the incident, however, he feels that the incident was taken out of context when the argument got heated.

“I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere apology to Mr Mahlangu with regard to the humiliation and pain and suffering occurred as a result of the incident that happened on the 24th. It’s unfortunate that the incident was misinterpreted as I had a cordial discussion with Mr Mahlangu before the video was taken, which was taken out of context. I deeply regret the incident except that the treatment of Mr Mahlangu was totally devoid of principles of human dignity and equality that underpins our constitution.”

Maponyane says that prior to the video being taken, he had a cordial conversation with Mahlangu where he asked him to cover up more of his body because other customers were feeling uncomfortable around him.

He says Mahlangu then repeatedly refused to cover up his body and that’s when he asked him to leave when the video was taken.

“The security came back to me and said, ‘Sir, the gentleman refuses to cover’ and then I was obligated, as a centre manager, to go and address the situation. So, I went there and had a cordial discussion with Mr Mahlangu. When I asked him to cover because this is a public space, he said ‘no, I am not going to cover because it is my tradition’ and I said, ‘but you are exposing your underwear’ and an argument ensued. I then said this is a public space and there are kids in the mall and people are already complaining and if you don’t want to, then I will have to ask security to escort you out.’”

CRL Chairperson, Professor David Mosoma, says it pains him to have seen such a heated argument over traditional attire.

“I sit here with a very painful heart because I would have expected this behaviour or this interaction not between people who themselves have suffered so much in the loss of their culture and their identity.”

Mosoma says the commission will study all the evidence of the incident and then make remedial recommendations later in April.

Discussion on preserving and celebrating African culture and history: