27/06/2017 13:28 SAST | Updated 27/06/2017 13:57 SAST

Spur: Buckling Under White Pressure

Pierre van Tonder, the Spur CEO, fell for Solidarity's bullying and intimidation tactics.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - 30 September 2009: Spur Steak Ranch restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Charles Gallo)
Gallo Images
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - 30 September 2009: Spur Steak Ranch restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Charles Gallo)


At the nineteenth second in the video showing the infamous Texamo Spur incident in March, Nico Viljoen, the burly, spikey-haired man accosting Lebohang Mabuya in front of frightened and gawking children, aggressively steps forward and says: "Ek sal jou 'n poesklap gee."

Translated from Afrikaans, it crudely means: "I will give you a cunt slap."

The Spur Corporation condemned the incident and established a panel led by a professor of law, Elmien du Plessis, and consisting of academics Professor Kopano Ratele and Dr Wynoma Michaels, a representative from the civic group Sonke Gender Justice and Cobus Bester, an experienced and retired Afrikaans journalist.

But now Spur has shelved the panel after pressure from the Solidarity Movement, the reactionary Afrikaner rights organisation, and an organised boycott which saw some Spur franchises lose up to 40% of their turnover. Even though Solidarity denies it organised the boycotts, its leaders fanned it by saying Spur's reaction to the incident – it banned Viljoen and instituted the panel – shows it doesn't want Afrikaner customers.

The panel's brief was to investigate the incident itself as well as the circumstances which led to the confrontation. The panel was to be independent of Spur, it invited the public to make submissions to it and it was to publish its findings and recommendations on the 10th of July.

But last week Solidarity pushed back and announced it would not be making any representations to the panel because of its inherent anti-Afrikaner and Afrikaans bias.

Kallie Kriel, the chief executive of AfriForum, one of Solidarity's off-shoots, first complained about English being the panel's language of communication. Then he notified Du Plessis that AfriForum will not take part because "anti-Afrikaans" activists were involved in Spur's strategy.

"This," Kriel wrote to Du Plessis in Afrikaans because he refused to communicate in English, "will alienate Spur's clientele even further."

It came after Dirk Hermann, Solidarity's chief executive, fanned the flames of the boycott by using any and every Afrikaans platform he was offered to explain why "he's lost a taste for Spur". And notwithstanding the shameless manner in which Solidarity tried to solicit advertisements for its members' magazine "in order to address the crisis the company finds itself in".

This week Pierre van Tonder, the Spur chief executive, buckled under the pressure and after a meeting with Hermann and other Solidarity heavies last week, dumped the panel. He will instead go on a national "listening tour" to speak with franchise holders who have suffered under the repercussions of the incident and try to find common ground with them.

"Over the last few months we have realised we have not been listening to our customers," Van Tonder says in a statement. "We hereby unconditionally apologise to any person or community who has taken exception to our actions and will ensure a fair hearing is conducted prior to judgements being made in future."

Hermann has even graciously offered to facilitate the listening tour.

Spur and Van Tonder have now fallen for Hermann and Solidarity's intimidation and bully tactics. They have reneged on a decision that would have given the opportunity for a nuanced and important national debate, made space for people and interested parties to talk about race and gender and would have shown Spur to be proactive and responsible corporate citizens.

Instead, it seems to be pandering to Solidarity, an organisation whose whole recruitment strategy is based on fear-mongering and ethnic mobilisation, and that isn't adverse to strong-arming those that differ with them.

Hermann says they want to find a solution to the situation because it is Spur franchise holders and their employees who bear the brunt of the public's reaction. But what he's not saying is that it's his organisation's bullying that's harming franchise holders.

They used this exact same tactic when they launched a boycott amongst their members of the Afrikaans daily Beeld after the newspaper, then edited by Adriaan Basson, exposed initiation practices at the Potchefstroom campus of the North-West University (NWU) in 2014. These practices included the use of a Nazi salute by first-year students. Hermann and Solidarity labelled this as a "witch-hunt" on Afrikaans and Afrikaners.

When Viljoen was banned from Spur after telling a woman that he was going to give her a "poesklap", Hermann and Solidarity once again fanned a boycott and labelled it as an attack on Afrikaans and Afrikaners, which it clearly is not.

By equating the banning of one man behaving in a barbaric, despicable and abhorrent manner to an assault on a whole group is dishonest and devious. The fact that it was a black woman being harassed and insulted by a white man, of course, made the incident so much worse.

But Solidarity fanned those flames which Spur desperately tried to contain. They saw it as an opportunity to reinforce their propaganda that Afrikaners have been relegated to a second-class citizenry by making a containable incident between two adults into an assault on a whole group.

Spur fell for it and dumped the panel.

And now they've chosen the side of a man, supported by an Afrikaner pressure group, who tells black women he will give them a "cunt slap".

Every company has values. Spur's values are now publicly known.