SAHRC says LGBTQ+ ban shop owner must pay R500,000 in damages


The SA Human Rights Commission has outlined its case against the owner of La Gardi (Photo: Jayda Van Heerden / Facebook)

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has taken a firm stance against the owner of the Gqeberha shop that “banned” LGBTQ+ people. It’s called for him to pay a hefty sum in damages and for a criminal investigation into his actions.

Dawood Lagardien, proprietor of La Gardi, a packaging, spice, dairy, and baking shop, caused an uproar last month when he displayed a sign outside his business stating, “LGBTQ not welcome at La Gardi – Save our Children.”

He told MambaOnline at the time that LGBTQ+ people are being “forced down our throats and that “I will not allow LGBTQ individuals in my shop, and no one can stop me!”

In response to Lagardien’s discriminatory act, the SAHRC received numerous complaints and subsequently opened a case against him in the Equality Court. The commission alleges that Lagardien violated the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA or the Equality Act) by discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community.

In a strongly worded affidavit addressed to Lagardien last week, the SAHRC outlined its case against the businessman and called for urgent action by the Equality Court.

The commission accused Lagardien of refusing to remove the offensive sign and also alleged that his phone was used to set up a vile WhatsApp group that became a platform to spread hate speech and incite violence against the LGBTQ+ community.

Almost 700 people joined the group to show their support for him, many citing their Islamic beliefs as the basis for their vilification of LGBTQ+ people.

The SAHRC, led by Commissioner André Gaum, asserted that the right to religion cannot justify unfair discrimination, hate speech, or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as prohibited by PEPUDA.

“While the right to religion is constitutionally protected, it is vital to recognise that the exercise of this right must not infringe upon the fundamental rights of others, including the right to equality and dignity,” Gaum wrote.

To address the matter decisively, the SAHRC has requested the court to urgently issue an order declaring Lagardien’s actions as hate speech, unfair discrimination, and harassment.

They also seek an interdict to prevent him from engaging in any further similar actions. Additionally, the commission demands that Lagardien issue a public apology and pay R500,000 in damages to an NGO dedicated to promoting equality.

Furthermore, the SAHRC is urging the court to refer the matter to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for a thorough criminal investigation into Lagardien’s conduct.

“By granting the relief sought, including the award of damages and the referral of the matter to the NPA for criminal investigation, this Honorable Court will provide redress, compensation, and accountability for the victims, deter future instances of hate speech, unfair discrimination, and harassment, and reaffirm the principles of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in our Constitution and laws,” wrote Gaum in the affidavit.

Lagardien has until the 10th of August to respond to the affidavit.

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