Access denied

Le-Roy Martin, City of Cape Town senior foreman

It has been my privilege as an essential worker to work metro-wide for the City of Cape Town, during this country’s time of crisis.

My colleagues and I have been on duty daily since the lockdown began on Friday March 27. We have been sacrificing time away from our own families to provide an essential service, even working on weekends, with little or no time off.

Sadly, when we need to break away from work to purchase a meal or medication at a pharmacy or store we are met with disrespect.

We were fully kitted in council uniforms, permit in hand and yet still were denied access at Westgate Mall.

I was told by the security: “You people can go stand in the line!”

The statement came from a Xhosa-speaking man to me, a coloured.

If the tables were turned and I had referred to a black man in that way, I immediately would have been labelled a racist.

What was more disturbing is the fact that in more affluent areas, the mall security immediately gestures for us as essential workers, to come to the front of the line, through the entrance so that we are able to get our items and return to work.

This has been the case at Muizenberg Checkers; Parow Pick * Pay; Lakeside Woolworths; Hout Bay Checkers and Pick * Pay; and Pinelands Howard Centre.

Yet at Mitchell’s Plain Westgate Mall, the security is rude and then when you show your permit, it is ignored and the security becomes even more aggressive in denying one access.

Why is this the case?

We cannot be standing in a line – we still have to return to duties, attending to service requests.

Is it because the mall’s management has failed to enlighten security about our permits and our need to return to duty. Or is it simply blatant rudeness.

Also, why was I referred to as “you people”?

Every attempt at trying to reach the mall security manager Wade Stuart was futile.

He was nowhere to be found, and has yet to return my calls.

Can Westgate mall security please wake up to the fact that essential workers, hospital staff, City workers as well as the police need to return to duties as we are on call during this lockdown. We cannot be standing in a line when we are on call.

Are we as council workers not recognised as essential services because of the uniforms we wear? Are only SAPS and hospital uniforms respected?

Shanaaz Hoosain, Excellerate Real Estate Services junior centre manager for Westgate Mall, responds:

Thank you for your email and for bringing this matter to our attention.

We have discussed this incident and can confirm that essential staff are not required to stand in the queue at Westgate Mall.

We have met with the guard in question and have reprimanded him for his behaviour, and further training will be given to the security guards to avoid an incident like this occurring again.

The sacrifice made by essential staff during this time is appreciated and we will do our part to ensure that our team on site is informed and all customers are dealt with in a professional manner.

We thank all essential staff being on the frontline helping combat Covid-19 in our country.

Wade Stuart has contacted Le-Roy Martin directly to express our apologies and to advise him of the system in place at Westgate Mall.