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HRC probes 'racist' homeowner

Staff Reporter

The Human Rights Commission is investigating a Cape homeowner following allegations that he refused to allow a black couple to rent his house.

The Human Rights Commission is investigating a Southern Cape homeowner following allegations that he refused to allow a black couple to rent his house.

“A group of friends, which included the black couple, rented out two houses in Witsand for the festive season, from January 3 to 6,” SAHRC spokesperson Vincent Moaga said on Tuesday.

When the group went to collect the keys from the letting agent, they were told that the owner had discovered there was black couple who wanted to stay in one of his houses. They were then told that he would not allow that, Moaga said.

The group, which included academics from Cape Town, the United Kingdom and the United States, subsequently lodged a complaint with the SAHRC.

“We have to assess the complaint, and alleged action of the owner, in order to see if there is merit in this case ... we can only proceed with action thereafter,” Moaga said.

According to the Herald Online the group included Dr Herman Wasserman, a lecturer at Sheffield University and his journalist wife Helena, US political science assistant professors Dr Sean Jacobs and
his wife Jessica Blatt; Josh Ogada, assistant editor of Pambazuka News—which forms part of an international NGO promoting human rights—and his wife Dr Tanja Bosch, a journalism lecturer at the University of Cape Town.

Ogada, who was the victim of the alleged racism, said he was filled with a mixture of “sadness, embarrassment and huge anger”.

Wasserman said the houses were booked in his name and on their arrival, the agent took him and his wife aside and said one of the homeowners “did not allow non-whites”.

“We decided to all stay in the one house because we did not want to support someone with racist policies.

“We also did not tell our friends immediately as we did not want to spoil the weekend,” the website quoted Wasserman as saying.

Helena Wasserman said the incident filled her with shame.

“It was really horrific, especially as there were children involved and to try and explain to them what happened.”

Wasserman said the only information they could find on the house owner was that he was a farmer. - Sapa

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