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Yoga & Racism in Cape Town – What A Wonderful World…… !

What A Wonderful World….

It seems that yoga is not enough to calm people’s minds … In Cape Town, the yoga community is on fire following an event that features two yoga teachers and discriminatory, then aggressive and violent speeches. Needless to say, yoga proves the opposite, but what about the reality of this yoga world? What about the training of yoga teachers? What about this business around yoga? What about this profession, since it became one?

A few decades ago, yoga was a technique and discipline that did not give rise to scenes of violence but corruption is everywhere and here it is, in this universe that has become a basket of crabs, a sinkhole of oversized egos and a population that struggles to assert the profound values ​​of this art in the face of the desire for gain, notoriety and power (as everywhere else).

Elaborate your opinion by reading the stories made public on social media and more conventional media platforms like radio or newspapers. We will not discuss here who is right and who is wrong. The justice of the country has decided, but let us observe the spirit of yoga, the heart of our yoga, Raja yoga, the good old Patanjali Yoga and its fundamentals : Yamas and Nyamas …

Just a reminder, a few months back, Yoga Web TV was filming and interviewing some protagonists of the yogic scene of Cape Town and asked the same question to all the teachers questioned: which Yamas or Nyamas is predominant, if there is one? The answer was not particularly interesting as only one in four teachers remembered what Yamas and Nyamas are, which are the basic rules for a teacher of a technique that should be something other than gym … The yoga supermarket and the 4-week intensive courses are going well in Cape Town, as elsewhere, and the development of this business is at the expense of the spirit of yoga. We have an example of it here in this situation.

Yamas: this Sanskrit term means self-control, moral duty, rule, observance; austerity, restraint, and it is the first step of Raja yoga. Nyamas: means repression, restriction, limitation, abstinence, restraint, reserve, discipline, observance, austerity, practice resulting from a vow (practice yoga sincerely).


YYYYYYYYY. – Yoga Teacher in Cape Town

« To my community

As most of you are aware, I have been accused of racism and discrimination. As a private individual I have not wanted to get involved in a social media battle, especially since the matter was being adjudicated by the CCMA. However, things have escalated to a point now where I feel that I owe my friends and community a response to the campaign against myself and ZZZZZZZZZZ – the studio where I am employed at.

On Thursday 7 December 2017 XXXXXXXX, myself and another colleague were engaged in conversation at the front desk. I expressed that I did not like the way another studio in town had their cleaning staff stand outside the class handing out warm face clothes for the studio. I said that it smacked of colonialism. XXXXXXXXX’s response to me was that she loved that I was able to recognise that, and she said that ‘it was like we were back at the plantation’.

On the following day myself, XXXXXXXX and the same colleague were again in conversation at the front desk. It was an extremely hot day, and I said that I wish someone could fan me and ‘XXXXXXXX it should be you, then we can also be back at the plantation.’ I said this in jest and in reference to the comment that XXXXXXXX had made the previous day.

I wish to emphasise that I did not have an ounce of malice in making the comment. I was making a dig at a system and it was not geared directly at XXXXXXXXX at all. I admit now and have always admitted that the comment was stupid, racially charged and completely inappropriate. I have said as much under oath in court.
I have learnt through this experience that I have no idea about the hurts and wrongs of racism and that I have no right to make any kind of comment in jest. I understand now that having been part of a different minority is by no means similar to the discrimination suffered by people of colour.

I have apologised in writing, and I have apologised in person. XXXXXXXX’s response has always been that an apology is not enough and that there is no way to move forward from this.

I would now again like to publicly, officially and humbly apologise to XXXXXXXXX. I sincerely wish that I could somehow take it back or make it better.
Again I put the question out there to her:
How do I learn from the experience, and how do I move forward?



* Edit:
As a separate issue that does not detract from my apology, but simply to bring all the facts to light, I would like the public to be aware of the following:

  1. XXXXXXXXXX is denying having made the initial comment that I refer to. There was a witness, and I am happy to undergo a polygraph test.
    2. XXXXXXXXXXX denied in court proceedings that I ever apologised, yet I have written proof.
    3. XXXXXXXXXXX took my employer to court asking for financial compensation which she was denied. The court ruled in favour of ZZZZZZZZZ, and that there was no wrong-doing on the part of the employer. »




XXXXXXXX.  Yoga Teacher in Cape Town

« On the 8th of December 2017, I was racially abused by fellow teacher and colleague YYYYYYYYYY at ZZZZZZZZZ.
A studio I had been a part of for 11 years.

What followed was a series of non apologies from YYYYYYYYY and abusive behaviour from F——– (the studio owner).
I was met with hostility, threats via email and a 5 minute long voice note filled with aggression, name calling, intimidation and more threats.
This all happened in the weeks before Christmas.

In the 8 months since then, neither YYYYYYYYY or F——- have tried to apologise for the hell they have put me through until a few days ago when it became clear they could not run or hide from this anymore.
Statements were released on their social media in which they once again avoided responsibility or issued another non apology.

Yesterday, ZZZZZZZZZZZ (F——–?) posted a new statement.

A clear change of tone. The very first statement that does not deflect responsibility… does not contain more threats of legal action or blaming me for what happened.

In my opinion, this is just another attempt to save yourself and your studio. But… I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

So, let’s address the statement.

“Our previous statement was not meant to excuse the incident or detract from XXXXXXXX’s hurt in any way. Nor was it aimed at excusing YYYYYYYYY or siding with him. Its intention was to share some of the facts relevant to the event. 

We are not actively engaging with social media because it does not enable constructive outcomes. We hope that the sensitisation, awareness and crucial issues that have been brought up can be chanelled towards constructive outcomes and hope that XXXXXXXXXX can be open to engaging with this intention. 

As a white male, I acknowledge that I can not relate to XXXXXXXXXX to the extent that this has affected her and I may never be able to. This is an important and profound lesson and realization that I have experienced from the occurrence of this incident. With this realization, as an employer I recognize that I should have handled the matter more sensitively and caringly towards XXXXXXXXXX. She was a member of our team for a long time, as staff and teacher, and we regret these events and the hurt that it has caused, for which I share responsibility. I am sorry for this XXXXXXXXXX.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ is engaging with experts for sensitization training and awareness building on all discriminatory matters, social and in the workplace. The intention is for our organization and the broader community as a whole to honestly and openly engage with what can be positively learned from this experience”

You state that you are engaging with experts for sensitization training and awareness building on all discriminatory matters, social and in the workplace.

Is there a timeline as to when this will be finished? Let’s say end of September?
Is this for the whole team including yourself?

You mentioned the same thing during Arbitration at the CCMA in May and references it again during your radio interview with Africa Melane on CapeTalk on Sunday… What are the steps that you have taken since December, May or past Sunday?

I would say 8 months ago is when this should have started?

I would also like to suggest some anger management training for you F———-, as this 5 minute voice note was definitely not the first time you have been emotionally and verbally abusive to me or other old and current members of your staff at ZZZZZZZZZZ.

What concrete steps have you taken with regards to the procedures when it comes to reporting discrimination and or other issues.

Has anything been but in place since December? If not, why not and will that also be done in the next month?

Could you share what those are? There are very simple and clear rules to follow. Available online.

Since you have stated, in public statements and in providing comment to the media, that you have instituted certain measures, you should have no problem in providing me with the details thereof by close of business today. This should include details of the individuals or companies you have engaged for sensitivity training, and when, as well as your proposed changes to HR policies. You have spent a significant amount of money engaging labour experts Bagraims Attorneys to defend you. Have you also asked them to attend to your HR shortcomings?

I obviously have a lot of ideas and suggestions but I’ll keep those to myself for now.

I look forward to hearing from you and your team.

** ZZZZZZZZZZZ responded…

In Response to XXXXXXXX’s earlier post and questions:
We welcome your constructive inputs and to share the following with you.

We are currently consulting with accredited specialists to conduct Diversity Training and sensitisation awareness and management. The terms are that it involves all staff members, including the director, and conducted at the studio premises. The timeline is set to adjust to availability of staff members and the process is to be completed in phases within this quarter (by October).
Since December we engaged labour consultants who equipped us with employment and related procedural documents that have been implemented and are an open resource for all our staff.
It has honestly been a very reflective period for me since this incident and I take XXXXXXXX’s suggestion to heart. Over the last many months I have been doing the work on myself to be more aware of my temperament and the impact it has on others and will formally engage professional assistance in this regard.
We will keep you updated next week as to our on-going progress and appreciate the open dialogue developing.

The gist of my response : NOT GOOD ENOUGH! »



ZZZZZZZZZZZZ – Yoga Studio where it happened

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ responds to comments and allegations made on public media:

The ZZZZZZZZZZZZ does not, and never has, accepted, condoned or been dismissive of any form of discrimination by its staff or any of its patrons. It is a place of practice and cultivation of yoga and the universal respect that is its community. That is clear through its history, operations and members who have been inclusively sharing and developing yoga in Cape Town for over 17 years.

A racial comment between 2 of its employees in December was very shocking to us all and the subsequent processes have been deeply taxing on all parties. But also a deeply reflective period for the business and its team in which core values, ethics and attitudes, prejudices and perspectives have been examined. Organizations and individuals challenged to evolve and expand their awareness.

It is understandable that this incident is a very sensitive issue and that it has caused a lot of hurt, to XXXXXXXXX in particular.
TheZZZZZZZZZZZZ has never dismissed it or that this was hurtful to XXXXXXXXX. But as a business, it did take the matter very seriously and took actions to address it urgently and appropriately.
XXXXXXXXXXX brought a case against ZZZZZZZZZZZZ to the CCMA – the judiciary process concluded last week and the verdict found no fault and liability from the ZZZZZZZZZZZZ and that the business had taken all reasonable and practical steps available to address the matter fairly. The very reason for statutory arbitration is to assess the facts and establish the truth and responsibilities regardless of individual’s opinions and versions. Kafui’s continued allegations of racism and discrimination against theZZZZZZZZZZZZ are therefore libel.
Perhaps it could have been more constructive of the CCMA to have put forward reconciliatory measures and actions for both parties to take.
The studio is a place of practice, peace and of respect and has always held to high ethical standards. We would engage with constructive processes that have positive social and organisational outcomes in increasing awareness and sensitization to discrimination of all forms.
Social media is certainly not the constructive platform for this with its bias and prejudice.

Some facts that do need to be clarified:
The offensive comment was made directly associated to a very similar “back in the plantation” comment made by XXXXXXXXXX  the previous day. This certainly does not excuse or dismiss the racial nature of the comment made but it does place it clearly into an existing context and its possible intent. The CCMA findings that “..the comment was mitigated by events that took place …(the previous day)”, refers.
Also relevant is that the offending party had immediately apologized to XXXXXXXXXXX and did so numerous times verbally and in writing. The person took immediate and full responsibility for their actions and the hurt it caused and tried to reconcile with XXXXXXXXXXX various times over a number of days.

XXXXXXXXXX is no longer an employee of the studio – she was on contract ending early January. That other staff member is still employed by the ZZZZZZZZZZZ  because it is evident from his actions and attitude that he immediately realized it was a grave error and a clearly discriminatory comment regardless of the context and non-harmful intent it may have had. The offending party took immediate and remorseful actions and we feel that this person understands and respects the issues, took full responsibility for them and is genuinely remorseful and apologetic. Furthermore, his behaviour over the years with the studio demonstrates a fair and caring person, liked, respected and trusted by all – XXXXXXXXXX herself attested to his upstanding and caring character. With these considerations, the person should be allowed the opportunity to learn and grow from this experience together with the ZZZZZZZZZZZZ and its other staff and team members.
From the ZZZZZZZZZZZZ, in order to gain positively from this we have engaged with consultants for a program of sensitization and awareness-building on racial and discriminatory matters, for all its staff. We believe this to be a pro-active way of broadening and spreading awareness and ensuring an always respectful and sensitive work place.

We welcome positive dialogue with XXXXXXXX to address this constructively for all parties but will not tolerate libel.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ thanks you for your understanding and all support shown during this time. Namaste


On 25 august 2018 – from YYYYYYYYYY :

« The incident that occurred on 8 December 2017 is known to many of you, and has haunted me since.

I made comment to a colleague which was stupid and insensitive. I realise that there is no place for racially charged remarks in any situation.

I apologise unreservedly to XXXXXXXXXX and all whom have been hurt by my comment, and ask for your forgiveness.

I have decided to resign from ZZZZZZZZZZZZ and apologise to my colleagues and yoga community for the difficulty caused by this incident.

I hope that in time both Kafui and society at large will be able to forgive my terrible mistake.

My last day at ZZZZZZZZZZZZ will be on 31 August 2018. »




















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