Actor and writer Lazola Gola has accused a computer developer of calling hum a ‘monkey’ at a trendy Cape Town bar after a fight over a chair on Wednesday night
The developer has denied using racist language, but admitted being involved in ‘a fight’ with Gola, brother of comedian Loyiso Gola.
Mark “Chippy” van Niekerk, who works as a developer for Media24’s 24.com division, has been banned for life from visiting The Power and The Glory bar on Kloof Nek Road.
Media24 has strongly condemned the alleged incident of racism and said it would fully investigate the matter.
Gola says the fight started over a chair. After he got his chair back, he tried to ignore Van Niekerk who he said was “chirping” him.
“He said to me ‘is that the BEE table?'”
Gola said the comment was made to his friend. He says he is only identifying the friend as white for the purpose of context.
“He was talking to my friend out of earshot of me [and said] ‘you and your monkey….’.
Gola said that was when he lost his cool. He said Van Niekerk’s bag and beer were taken outside by staff, and he (Gola) was just told to “calm down”.
The two faced off again on the pavement, with bouncers blocking Gola from Van Niekerk, and the two had a heated exchange. He (Gola) said he was not allowed to go back into the bar but eventually went back to fetch his belongings. After that he made a Facebook post about the incident.
Asked whether he would lay a criminal complaint, he said he had a long day at work, with moments of shaking over what had happened.
“I need to have a big think about this.”
He said the bar had apologised to him.
Van Niekerk said there was “hostility” after he took Gola’s chair, but denies the racist slur.
“Yes, there was an incident. I sat on a chair right, and it was someone’s chair, and I pulled another chair closer for the gentleman. And then he.. got upset and then I left without any incident.”
He explained that because the place is small and casual, people tend to sit on the tables as they socialise. He pulled an empty chair towards him, and when Gola told him it was his chair, a flare-up started.
“I definitely did not call anyone a monkey. I can promise you that. I know for a fact I didn’t. There was definitely some hostility. To be honest I can’t recall the exact words, but I definitely did not say those words.”
He also alleges that Gola tried to punch him.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the bar said Van Niekerk had been banned for life and one bouncer had been suspended.
“The incident has left us deeply sad and disappointed, especially in how it was mishandled by our security team.
“We have reached out to Lazola, who graciously afforded us his time so we may apologise for the awful experience he had at our establishment. This has called us to action and we would like all to know, we will not be passive about what happened.”
They would scrutinise how such issues had been dealt with in the past.
“We are making it publicly known that any form of bigotry, prejudice or racism has no place here, and most importantly that if these incidents do arise, they will be handled in line with our total intolerance for such attitudes and behaviour.”
Gola’s friend, who asked not to be named, confirmed that it was the dispute over a chair that started the confrontation. He corroborated Gola’s version that Van Niekerk called him a monkey.
He said when Gola was going to the bar to get a drink, he told a man nearby (Van Niekerk) that his friend was coming back and was going to sit on that chair when he gets back.
“Cool, cool, cool,” said the friend, who has known Gola since childhood. Then the man kicked another chair towards him. Lazola was going to sit there, but the friend said Lazola should sit in his own chair.
“And then he said ‘oh BEE’, and I was like ‘what?’. Laz was like ‘excuse me?’.”
He says a bouncer was called and they asked the bouncer to get the man out, but they could not understand that although his bag and drink were taken out, he was still there. The bouncer apparently picked him up “like a little baby” and he was laughing.
“And that’s when he started shouting ‘oh stupid monkey, stupid monkey’ – something to that effect – something about Lazola being a monkey.”
“I went outside and everyone was holding Laz back as though he did something wrong.”
Gola’s friend said he was so upset that he was physically shaking.
“I saw red,” he said.
He said Gola “schooled” the man on South Africa, and they left.
“It’s sad that it’s 2018 and this stuff is still going on.”
He said he knew the bouncers well, and did not want anything to happen to them or their livelihoods. However, he felt their job is to protect people and they had not felt protected.
Andreij Horn, head of 24.com said: “It is very disturbing in the extreme to be linked to an alleged incident of racism that involves one of our employees, even if the alleged incident seems to have occurred at a bar and after hours.
“This type of behaviour is in stark contrast to our company values.
“Media24 has a zero tolerance policy regarding racism. We take this very seriously and will fully investigate and act decisively based on what we find.”
Media24 has asked Gola to assist the company in its investigation.
Owner Vincent John Soimaud said they take accusations of racism very seriously and are investigating how their bouncer could have dealt with Gola’s complaints more sympathetically.