At least one of the five people involved in an alleged homophobic incident at a Pretoria Spur is taking the matter further. They’re also outraged that Spur has painted them as violent drunks.
The group claim that on the morning of Sunday 29 May they were told they were “disgusting” by a manager at the Spur in Sunnypark because two of the men were kissing.
They say they were further told that these displays of affection were not allowed in the “family” restaurant.
In a statement last week, Spur described the homophobia claims as “false” and said that members of the group were “kissing and groping [and] behaving in a manner that is considered publicly inappropriate, regardless of sexual preferences”.
The restaurant chain also suggested that they were drunk and alleged that the group had “physically and verbally” attacked the female manager, which resulted in them being ejected from the venue and the mall by security.
Instead of settling the matter, however, the company’s statement appears to have only inflamed the situation.
Social media manager Tshegofatso Mphahlele, one of the men involved in the altercation, says he’s angered by Spur’s allegations and has told Mambaonline that he’s reported the incident as a hate crime with Pretoria LGBT group OUT.
“None of us were violent,” he insisted, although he admitted to demanding that the manager be fired. “All we did was talk to them. I would like to ask Spur for proof that we were violent.”
In addition to reporting the matter to OUT, Mphahlele revealed that, “we are thinking of taking it to the Human Rights Commission”.
He said that the fallout from the incident had been “overwhelming”, especially as he suffers from depression and had been a long-time patron of the restaurant, which he had believed to be a “safe space”.
“I’ve kissed guys there before, had dates there and had breakups there – and for them treat us like that, that is very triggering,” he said.
IT student Keabetswe Maubane was one of the men called out by the restaurant for the kissing. He told Mambaonline that his actions were not excessive.
“It was just kissing; it wasn’t anything sexual or grinding. It was just a kiss,” he said. “I feel violated. I feel like I was treated like a second class citizen in South Africa.”
The men accused Spur of having double standards when it comes to what is acceptable behaviour. “I’ve seen straight people doing it and nobody complains,” said Mphahlele. “I don’t know what constitutes family to them.”
Maubane also believes that the restaurant chain could have handled the matter differently, instead of reacting so “defensively”.
“All I wanted was an apology or acknowledgement of wrongdoing. I wasn’t even considering any action until after the report that we were violent,” he said.
Mphahlele explained that he had hoped that the company would have arranged to meet with them before it responded to their claims.
“They asked me to provide my number, but they never called. They just went on the offensive and made us look like violent drunks.”
Maubane added: “I feel like we are way behind when we can be treated like that in Gauteng. What does that mean for other people in more rural areas?” he asked.
Although new legislation is expected to be introduced shortly, hate crimes are not currently legally recognised in South Africa. Some LGBTI groups under the banner of the Love Not Hate campaign are nevertheless recording and tracking such alleged incidents.
In its statement last week, the restaurant said: “Spur is a Family restaurant and treats all patrons equally regardless of sexuality or race; we are well represented by the gay community both in our head office and franchisees. Our long standing support of gay media publications such as OUT Magazine as well as events such as MCQP is self-evident. We are accepting and welcoming to all, however do not tolerate our staff being mistreated and abused in any manner.”
Update 10/06/2016: Spur has responded to this article by stating simply that, “We stand by our official [previous] response”.