Former employees of a Ramotswa-based company are alleging that they, all 150 of them, found themselves jobless last week after they confronted their boss, allegedly after he called them ‘kiffirs, a derogatory reference to black people used during apartheid South Africa.
Employees of Easily Enterprises allege that their boss, identified only as Barnes, habitually insults them and, on that day, the employees gave Barnes a dose of mob justice and police were called in to rescue him.
“I was badly injured by a mob that refused to work longer hours at the steel rolling mill,” Barnes told The Telegraph from Johannesburg on Monday.
Ramotswa Police acting station commander, Assistant Superintendent Thito Freeman, confirmed the incident, adding that police were dispatched to the company premises on the fateful Wednesday to rescue Barnes and property.
Surprisingly, Barnes the victim did not lay a charge against anyone.
Asked why he has not laid a charge, he retorted: “It was a mob attack. How do you lay a charge against 130 people? I have shut down the plant. I am not going to open the business only to be attacked by a mob,” he said.
Barnes, however, said when he reopens the plant, he will be looking for “decent people” not those who will attack him when he gives them instructions.
Barnes confirmed that he has indeed shown 130 of his employees the door. But he denies that he fired them.
“They elected to leave when I said that those who are against my instructions should go,” he said. He also refuted allegations that he referred to them as kaffirs.
Employees allege Barnes forcefully wanted to get them to work under unbearable heat for extended hours while they previously worked at one hour intervals.
His version is that one of the rolling mills had broken down so he could not afford to have different teams working on the same machine as that would mean some employees remain idle and it would hurt production.
The employees could not agree with him as that meant being subjected to unbearable heat from the red hot rolling mill for extended periods.
Barnes apparently threw a tantrum, allegedly spewing profanities.
An irate mob came after him and assaulted him.
“We are not paid when we are burnt. The company pays for bone fractures not body burns no matter how bad they could be,” said a former employee. According to Barnes, the rolling mills heat steel at a temperature of 1250 degrees Celsius.
He would not say how the incident has affected his business.