Johannesburg – The man banned from all Spur outlets nationwide following an angry exchange has a string of arrests for assault.
News24 can reveal that the man, a car salesman based in Rustenburg, North West, had five cases against him between June 2005 and November 2011 which allegedly included assaulting his wife in public.
“[The cases] include three of common assault, one of malicious damage to property and one of contravention of domestic violence act,” North West police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone.
In two of the cases, News24 understands, the man was accused of hitting his wife with his fists at a rugby club. And in another case, the woman opened a common assault case against him after he allegedly hit her at their home.
Mokgwabone said four of the cases against the man were withdrawn and he was found not guilty on one charge of common assault.
Attempts to get comment from the man were unsuccessful despite calls and text messages sent during the week.
The man appeared all over social media on March 21 when a video of an apparent scuffle between children in the play area of the restaurant led to a near brawl between the man and another parent, Lebohang Mabuya.
The incident sparked nationwide outrage.
“We all know that we have a history of violence in South Africa and this over exposure of violent behaviour to children is going to breed violent adults because he himself, the violent man, probably has a history of violence,” operations director for Women and Men Against Child Abuse Vincentia Dlamini told News24 on Sunday.
“That is why he is acting out this way in his adulthood. He has anger issues, he can’t control his temper.”
Dlamini said Mabuya had also reacted in a manner that was uncalled for, but that she was reacting to an attack from the man.
At the time, Spur Corporation CEO Pierre van Tonder released a statement on the same day the video went viral, describing the incident as “unfortunate”.
“We are very disappointed that children were exposed to this type of behaviour and would like to assure the public and all our loyal customers that we certainly do not condone any forms of racism or violence.”
The franchise then decided that the man would not be allowed at any of their restaurants nationally saying it did not condone any forms of violence against women or children, irrespective of the circumstances.
Van Tonder then apologised to Mabuya, on behalf of Spur, saying her version of events was correct after viewing the CCTV footage themselves. In a report by News24 at the time, Spur confirmed that the man had acted in an aggressive manner.
“We affirm our decision to ban the male customer from our stores, physical aggression towards our customers, particularly against women and children,” Van Tonder said at the time.
This decision was met with some backlash.
A Facebook page called ‘Boycott/Boikot SPUR Steak Ranches’ was set up shortly after this decision, describing Spur as being biased.
“White people must stop spending their money there until the black lady with her filthy mouth is also banned. They were both wrong!” the page read.
Another group called ‘Boycott Spur Steak Ranches’ said on its page that the boycott was in order “after a recent banning of a male at spur, while disregarding the events leading up to his outrage”.
Two months later, in May, Spur Group Chief Operating Officer Mark Farrelly reportedly told Port Elizabeth daily The Herald, that the boycott was affecting a minority of Spur branches, mainly those in “strongholds of the old Conservative Party”.
CEO of trade union Solidarity, Dirk Hermann, then wrote a letter responding to Farrelly, saying the reason white South Africans had decided to boycott Spur restaurants because white people were tired of political correctness at their expense and of being bullied every time they voiced an opinion.
“This is about a community that feels estranged in the country and now they feel strange in their favourite restaurant as well.
“Afrikaners are Spur people, family people. They saw Spur as a restaurant where they felt at home. Mark, you snapped at them. That was a mistake.
“You dismissed a community that was your loyal customers for years. An apology is appropriate. People have lost their appetites to go eat at your restaurants.”
At the time, Van Tonder stood by the statements made by Farrelly and the corporation and said Hermann was entitled to his opinion. He added that the boycott was affecting a minority of Spur branches in areas with “certain demographical characteristics”.
Political punching bags
Lobby group Afriforum also joined the conversation, describing Van Tonder’s handling of the matter as “one-sided” and expressed sympathy for the franchise owners and employees at the restaurants who were feeling the knock.
On Sunday, News24 asked Afriforum whether it still supported the calls for a boycott despite revelations that the man had a track record of violent behaviour.
Afriforum spokesperson Ernst Roets told News24 that the revelations were “irrelevant”.
“The fact that a bigger picture is now coming to light about what this person has been involved with at another stage of his life is in our view completely irrelevant to this particular outcome.
“Both of them behaved poorly in our opinion, and I think both of them should be ashamed of themselves,” Roets said.
He said the organization was not necessarily picking the man’s side and were not trying to represent him or to defend him.
“The fact is there was a spat between two people, Spur apologized to the one and banned the other one and I don’t think that that is an appropriate way to deal with it.”
He emphasized that the reason that the white Afrikaner community had reacted the way it did, was because they were tired of being used as “political punching bags”.
“That’s the way how many white people experience it. They are tired of being used as political punching bags. They are tired of being used as scapegoats and being blamed for everything and they are tired of double standards,” Roets said.
On Monday, Van Tonder released a statement saying the corporation apologised for the manner in which it handled the incident.
“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 judgments being made in future,” he said.
As a result of the harm caused by the boycott, Spur’s top executives would go on a country-wide road show in a bid to “gain a greater understanding of their customers and franchisees”.