A Kulula passenger who called two fellow passengers and the pilot the k-word has lost her job. This as the two passengers reunited to make sense of their ordeal.
SMC Pneumatics confirmed that Alochna Moodley no longer worked for the company, after she was suspended and put through a disciplinary process. It is not clear what position she occupied.
The company, which said it does not tolerate racism, has not yet confirmed whether she resigned or was fired.
Moodley (26) had been sitting between two men – Reverend Solomuzi Mabuza (44) and driver Sibusiso Magubane (37) – on the 10.40pm flight to Durban from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
Mabuza called her out after he saw her referring to them and the pilot by the k-word, in a message typed in a large font on her phone. A shocked Mabuza informed the cabin crew and Moodley was kicked off the plane.
While Moodley has since removed her online social media profiles, she told the Sowetan she had used the word out of "frustration" about a flight delay and felt like "this thing was blown out of proportion".
"It was a mistake on my side. I am not going to deny that I said those things," she was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the two men reunited for the first time on Friday, a week to the day of the incident.
"It is good that the company took a clear stance to distance itself from such conduct, more so that she admitted to this matter," Mabuza said.
"I would think losing a job is not something you celebrate. But if there is no consequence in wrongdoing, how then will people learn?"
Sitting together over a cup of coffee in Durban, the men tried to come to terms with the pain that followed Moodley's action.
Mabuza said he had not yet been able to sit down with his children and tell them what he had been through. Recalling the incident, he said when he called Moodley out, she ignored him and kept quiet.
"I thought, this person cannot be thinking straight."
He said Magubane was quiet and appeared much calmer, although his hands were shaking.
Magubane, in turn, said he was disappointed at the conduct of such a young person.
"I thought maybe she would just apologise."
'The only thing I wanted was for her to apologise'
Magubane, who was hurting deeply, asked that the media not contact him from this point.
Kulula spokesperson William Smook confirmed that the cabin crew were alerted to the incident.
"The aircraft, which hadn't taken off, returned to the loading ramp and the ramp controller escorted the passenger from the plane. Kulula's stance is simply that it doesn't tolerate discrimination or abusive conduct."
Smook said the flight was on time, but then delayed by 15 minutes because of Moodley's removal.
He said neither the pilot nor Kulula planned to take the racist incident further.
Mabuza commended the crew for their quick response.
'I am extending an olive branch to her'
He was disappointed that he and Magubane still had not heard from Moodley this week.
"I am extending an olive branch to her. She can come and talk to me. We can't impose what she should do. The onus is on her to show this nation that she is not what her text is portraying her to be."
The men, however, were still considering taking the matter further through the SA Human Rights Commission, the Equality Court or through laying a criminal charge.
Mabuza said he was meeting with retired Anglican bishop Rubin Phillip on Saturday to look at constructive ways of tackling persistent racism in society.
"We need to move away from sensationalism and admit there is a problem in this country.
"The nation needs to hear that this word is alive, it is hidden, it keeps coming up. Someone enjoys brewing this kind of ideology."