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NRI Patel, store owner accused of being 'racist'

DURBAN, Sep. 21, 2005
Wendy Jasson da Costa
IOL, South Africa

  • 'How can I be racist when I have posters for all the race groups?'

NRI, (nom-resident Indian) Durban businessman said he was not racist just "frustrated and desperate" because of bad employees - which is why he put up job advertisements described as offensive and derogatory.

NRI, Tony Patel who owns two clothing stores, known as Apples, said he was tired of "undesirables" asking him for jobs and said the "laws of this country suck" because he was not allowed to specify what sort of workers he wanted.

Patel made headlines with the posters on the windows of his shops which read:


    However, he was adamant that his posters were not offensive. "How can I be racist when I have posters for all the race groups? It's Mandela's rainbow nation. It's my business. I just don't advertise for coloureds because they don't like to work for Indians. They prefer working as cashiers in Pick 'n Pay and Checkers."
    Asked about his "No Fatties" policy he said: "I love fatties. They're juicy and meaty and beautiful but the fatties that come here are undesirable. I will only employ a woman up to a size 42. After that they get too heavy to run around and help customers."
    Patel said he had been in the clothing business for 49 years and was only successful because of the way he ran his enterprise. After the posters were put up many "fatties" came into his stores and joked that they needed a job but would have to lose weight first.
    "My business is run like the military. I'm a hard aggressive man. I'm a no nonsense man. I don't care what the human rights commission or anyone else says about my business because they are not going to pay my rent. Why don't they worry about the people who are raped, murdered and robbed? They mustn't worry about someone who doesn't want to employ fatties."
    He said he had no idea what the outcry was all about because many other business owners complained about the laws but did nothing about it. "I don't moan, I take action. I wear underpants, other businessmen wear panties."
    Patel said his clients were mainly professional, black and well off. He said client service was important and three years ago he sacked a man for bad breath.
    "This man worked for me for three days and the clients kept on complaining about his breath. So I told the manager to tell this fellow that he must brush his teeth and suck some mints. I even gave him R10 for spearmints. But if a man can't brush his teeth and be presentable to work in Apples he can't work in Apples. So, after his third day on the job I sacked him because I could not afford to lose customers."
    Patel said he was not new to controversy because four years ago a consumer journalist attacked him for a "no browsing policy" in his shops - and the publicity tripled his business.
    "Tony Patel is 25 years ahead of any other businessman in town. My policy is that if you are not going to buy don't come into my shop and jumble the clothes on the shelves. In fact I am the first shop in the world to do this and now an American store is doing the same."
    Customers who were "just looking" were asked to leave.
    Patel said since the outcry over his posters he has had phone calls from people commending his for his courage in asking for what he wanted.
    "The publicity was worth a million rand. Today I am more famous than Mandela."
    The SA Human Rights Commission's Karthy Govender said everyone in South Africa was bound by the laws. He said it was unacceptable to discriminate against people in terms of race or physical appearance and that unsuccessful job candidates could take Patel to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
    He said it appeared as if Patel thought he was "above the law." Govender described Patel's posters as "crass" and said employers could only specify race to comply with the Employment Equity Act. - Sapa

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