A casual trip to a Johannesburg mall on Wednesday turned into a nightmare when Ndebele activist and author Thando Mahlangu was allegedly hounded out of the shopping complex by a man who described himself as the mall owner.
His sin, apparently, was that he went into the Boulders shopping centre wearing Ndebele traditional attire. The Ndebele are one of South Africa’s minority ethnic groups.
In the video clip, the man tells Mahlangu that there is a right of admission and that he doesn’t condone Mahlangu’s outfit and he must leave.
The man continues to tell Mahlangu that the mall is a public place and he is dressed indecently, while Mahlangu responds by saying he is dressed in African attire.
“You are telling me I’m not supposed to wear African [clothes] in Africa,” Mahlangu says.
“I’m saying this is a public place … I’m not allowing that here, this is my mall … right of admission is reserved,” the man responds.
Mahlangu’s girlfriend can be heard telling the man that “this is Africa then you can’t tell someone what to do, what to wear, at which mall”.
“I left the mall heartbroken and even now as we speak, I’m still not fine emotionally.”
The centre management said in a statement:
“The Boulders Shopping Centre would like to apologise unreservedly for the incident that took place at Clicks.
“The centre would like to clarify that it does not deny entry based on appearances and clothes. It is unfortunate that the incident that occurred inside Clicks is being viewed as intolerant towards other cultures and clothes.
“We take this opportunity to once again apologise to those who feel hurt by the incident. The decision was taken in the interests of other shoppers and employees of the mall,” said the centre management.
However, comments on social media were mostly supportive of Mr Mahlangu and called for African attire and practices to not be suppressed in South Africa.