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SAHRC managers accuse acting CEO of racist utterances

27 Feb 2023

SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) employees are aggrieved after the acting CEO of the commission allegedly passed racist remarks against senior black managers, referring to them as "black babies" during a planning session.

According to reports from employees, the disgruntled managers showed the acting CEO, Chantal Kisoon, the door during a meeting in Thaba Eco Hotel in Johannesburg on Thursday and escalated her alleged racial comment to the chairperson of the commission, Bongani Majola.

The comment in question, allegedly uttered by Kisoon to provincial heads and executives of the business unit, was:
They are going to look at the total number of 300 key performance indicators and assess, and then call each of you out as black babies. And then quarterly, they will do the same thing. We can’t expect to be spoon-fed, colleagues, we can’t.

Acting spokesperson of the SAHRC, Wisani Baloyi, confirmed to City Press that the incident was under investigation.
The chairperson was in meetings on the morning of Friday. However, as soon as the matter was brought to his attention at lunchtime, he immediately convened a special meeting of commissioners and they met from 3pm to 5pm.

Baloyi added that Majola had scheduled a meeting with the affected staff members for Monday morning. In addition to that, commissioners would engage with Kisoon on the same day.

Kisoon was appointed last year after Advocate Tseliso Thipanyane's contract was not renewed. She was the provincial manager between 2012 and 2016 and the COO of the commission until she was appointed as the acting CEO.  

In a drafted statement from the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), which City Press had seen, the union raised concern over Kisoon's conduct.

"The union is not only appalled by the statement uttered by the acting CEO, but is also highly disturbed that a high-ranking official, an acting CEO not least, of an institution whose mandate is the protection of human rights and dignity, holds these views about black people," read the statement.  

The union further asserted that Kisoon’s statements showed clear bias about her views of black professionals.

"She was not only undermining and demeaning in her tone, but also admonished her management team by likening them to 'black babies'."

The statement contextualised the comment to align with the diminution of black people by colonial and apartheid regimes by reducing adults to mere children by referring to them as boys and removing all the dignity that comes with being an adult.
Kisoon has demonstrated her utter disregard and disrespect for her colleagues and, through her utterances, has alluded that she views the adults in the room as not only juveniles but also babies who cannot continue to be spoon-fed.

Nupsaw said the conduct was against the vision and mission of the SAHRC and stated that the alleged racist remarks had strained the working relationship, since most staff members, who were predominately black, reported to her.  

Among other demands, the union has called for an investigation into the alleged racist remarks and that Kisoon be suspended for the duration of the investigation as her presence might compromise it.

When asked about disgruntlement among SAHRC staff members, Baloyi commented: "We have not received formal communication from staff that they are disgruntled although they have expressed some concerns about a number of things. which the management is attending to. Being internal matters, the commission would not like to address them through the media but to continue to engage with its staff to find solutions."

Meanwhile, the EEF published a statement on Sunday, calling for the removal of Kisoon following the utterances.

The EEF condemns, in the strongest terms, the racist remarks by the acting CEO of the SAHRC, who referred to senior managers at the institutions as "black babies". The act of Kisoon is not only racist but also confirms to us that the SAHRC thrives through infantilising black people, undermining their intelligence and treating them as incapable.

The political party claimed that the act was testament to the prevailing culture of racism at an institution that ought to promote equality.

Source: News24

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