Cape Town yoga studio under fire after woman posts Facebook video alleging racist comments from white male colleague
Yogi and founder of natural skin and haircare products, Kafui Naturals is Ghanaian-born, Amsterdam-raised Kafui Awoonor. She has lived in South Africa for almost eight years.
She recently posted a Facebook video, which has since gone viral and is being discussed on Facebook, Twitter and Cape Talk among other platforms; where she walks us through the alleged discrimination she experienced at her previous place of work, YogaZone, in Cape Town.
She discusses her entire journey, claiming that her colleagues directed racist remarks at her on more than one occasion. One that really stands out, was one made on a particularly hot day, when a white colleague asked her to fan him like they were on a plantation.
After telling the colleague that she found his comment offensive and hurtful, he told her it was just a joke. She goes on to discuss the backlash she received from her employer once she reported the behaviour she found discriminatory.
She told us that she's very happy the video went viral. "Clearly by the response to it, it's an issue. Something we need to address within the yoga community and beyond. Racism is not just using the "K" or "N' word. There is a lot more to it. What happened to me is not rare. At all."
You can also listen to her discuss this on Cape Talk last week. Their show also included a response by YogaZone.
YogaZone has since posted this statement on its Facebook page.
Owner of YogaZone, Fulvio Grandin shared with us his side of the story, focusing on last week's Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) ruling in YogaZone's favour, he sends me the final findings and judgement award's document.
The award found that the alleged racist comment "was discriminatory on the basis of race and/or ethnicity, but do not find the employer to be liable for such discrimination for the reasons stated."
Kafui Awoonor worked at YogaZone, part-time and later on a contract basis, says Fulvio. She was an assistant, but sometimes substituted as an instructor. He says she was under a short contract and that her contract coming to an end had absolutely nothing to do with her claims.
The CCMA found that Kafui's experience was discriminatory, but that it didn't warrant her being paid for the duration of her contract without her going to work. Thus, the employer was not held liable for a variety of reasons stated in said findings and judgement award's document.
Fulvio told W24 that, "I have reached out to her after all of this to see if we can find solutions. In a positive and constructive manner. The yoga community is not hateful or racist, it's not stitched into our fibre. Quite the contrary. Racism is not pervasive in the Cape Town community, the yoga community is very inclusive."
I asked Kafui whether she has ever had bad experienced in the wellness community elsewhere in Cape Town. She says, "Yes I have. I've been vocal about my experiences and spoken up about being black in white spaces in the wellness community and beyond that."
Fulvio notes that he feels this has been a very one-sided case, and stresses that his team of over twenty, culturally diverse members of staff stand with him in saying that they have never experienced racism or discrimination in the workplace. That is not to diminish her experience, but purely saying they don't find YogaZone as an environment, racist and exclusionary.
Fulvio reiterates that Kafui has made many "blatantly untrue", "out of context" claims that has been proven to be untrue, and has been refuted in court.
Kafui claims in the video that the legal process was biased. And comments on her Facebook post have been very supportive of her sharing her ordeal.
Have you ever experienced any discrimination at any yoga studio around the country? Please share your story with us here.
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