Early one weekend morning, just after the nightclubs had closed, three young white men ambled into the harsh fluorescent light of a South African takeout food franchise. They whistled at the staffers, all of them Black, tugged their clothing and pulled their caps askew. When customers Sikhulekile Duma and two fellow black students told them to stop, they said people who didn’t speak Afrikaans didn’t belong there.
“They were whistling at them like they were whistling [at] dogs. They even jumped over the counter and they were patting them like they were dogs. Yourself, you feel disrespected. You know this is racial, this disrespect,” Duma said.
After leaving the restaurant in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, Duma and his friends were confronted by seven young white men, including the three who had humiliated the staff.
“These guys were really big. I got hit from behind and I fell on the ground. My glasses broke,” Duma recalled in an interview about the February incident.
Racist incidents such as this, Duma says, remain commonplace in South Africa more than two decades after Nelson Mandela, the nation’s first Black president, took office.
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