‘Racist Woolies called me a thief — twice’



August 17, 2016
‘Racist Woolies called me a thief — twice’

KAALVOET RANGER: Engineer Mpumelelo Ncwadi. CREDIT: Patrick Louw

Man accused of theft for being ‘black and kaalvoet’.

A qualified engineer, who loves to walk barefoot, has accused a leading retail store of discrimination after they accused him of theft.

Dad of two, Mpumelelo Ncwadi, 53, of Parklands believes he was profiled at a Woolworths store for being “black and barefoot” on two occasions.

He says two weeks ago he was accused of stealing Berocca tablets at the Woolies store in Sunningdale, Parklands.

Mpumelelo, who’s established a comfortable lifestyle, previously lived in the United States, was a Nelson Mandela Scholar in Cambridge and has an Engineering degree from Texas University.

He says his work requires him to dress smartly in a suit and tie, but when he is off duty he prefers walking barefoot.

“We grew up on a farm, at the Fish River. For the first two years of our schooling, my sister and I used to walk to school without any shoes. It does not mean we are not civilised, it is what I am comfortable with and is a preference,” he says.

“I sit on a board of directors but I walk barefoot.”

Mpumelelo says he was “flabbergasted” when a Woolworths security guard and a supervisor accused him of snatching the Berocca energy pille, worth R80.

“I saw the Berocca and asked my wife whether I should get it while we were standing in the queue. There were plus-minus 25 people in the queue,” he says.

“She said no, I must leave it because we have Cal-C-Vita at home.

“My [12-year old] son placed it back on the shelf.”

He says there were problems with the card machine and his wife went out to withdraw money, while he waited at the store entrance.

“A security guard approached me and said he believed I didn’t pay for the Berocca and left the store with it.”

He told the security guard to search him and later told the supervisor they could check the Berocca blikkie on the shelf for fingerprints.

“The supervisor said she didn’t see me putting it back. They called another supervisor who recognised me from a previous incident three months ago at Parklands Junction,” he continues.

Mpumelelo explains that in May, the man chased after him when he left the store with paid-for items.

“He came to my vehicle and I said they can check the till slip and see all the items, but he began apologising. Then, also, I was barefoot.”

Mpumelelo says he lodged a complaint with Woolworths, who offered him R 1000 for wrongfully accusing them.

“My wife paid for all the goods and we returned to lodge a complaint,”he says.

“Later I received an email stating that they will be offering a R1000 voucher for the accusation and they apologised.”

He now believes Woolworths treated him unfairly because he was black and kaalvoet.

“I said there were over 25 people in the queue and they targeted me. This happened twice in four months,”he says.

“I said there is a fundamental problem, I don’t like racial profiling.”

Woolworths Communications Manager Kirsten Hewett would only say: “We are currently investigating the incident.”

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