Gautrain apologises to activist kicked off train in Ndebele outfit

South Africa

Gautrain operator Bombela Concession Company has apologised to the Ndebele cultural activist and author who was barred from boarding the Gautrain due to his traditional outfit being deemed inappropriate.

Saturday Citizen reported on how Thando Mahlangu was humiliated more than a week ago at the Johannesburg station when he was entry onto the train because of his Ndebele attire.

The incident caught the attention of Gauteng transport MEC Ismail Vadi, who said it was  very unreasonable to prevent Mahlangu, 34, from boarding the Gautrain due to his cultural attire.

Vadi asked that the Bombela Concession Company review its policy and ensure that personnel were trained on respecting religious and cultural diversity.

“For any person to be discriminated against based on his or her cultural background is totally unacceptable,” Vadi said.

“Our country’s cultural and religious diversity should be embraced and respected.”

Kesagee Nayager, the company’s marketing and communications executive, said at the weekend they tried to talk to Mahlangu to get to the bottom of the matter, “but he refused to speak in English”.

Nayager said they were in the process of getting an interpreter to help them speak to Mahlangu.

She said they did not promote the prohibition of cultural attire as there was no rule restricting people from wearing their cultural attires.

“We would like to use this opportunity to apologise once again to Mr Mahlangu and to assure him that the necessary corrective actions will be taken,” she said.

King Makhosonke Mabena of the Ndebele also condemned the incident.

Speaking through his spokesperson, Prince Msilingwa Mabena, he said “barbaric acts of hatred instigated by individuals or institutions which depend on public money to survive should be condemned”.


Traditional Ndebele attire. Picture: iStock

-The Citizen

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