SAHRC to probe 'handwashing lesson' video after backlash

"Shelley" who gathered together a group of workers who live on the fifth floor of the Illovo building for a "hygiene lesson" is being investigated by the SAHRC.
"Shelley" who gathered together a group of workers who live on the fifth floor of the Illovo building for a "hygiene lesson" is being investigated by the SAHRC.
Image: Screenshot via Twitter

Gauteng provincial manager of the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) Buang Jones has confirmed that numerous complaints have been lodged with the commission about the viral video on social media showing a white woman teaching black workers how to wash their hands outside a building in Illovo, Sandton.

In the video, the workers — who appear to be domestic workers and gardeners — are standing in rows on the lawn as the woman teaches them how to apply hand sanitisers as a measure to protect themselves against Covid-19.

“Right, girls and ... gentlemen and ladies, we are gonna have a little bit of fun here, OK? I'm trying to make this into not a lecture, I don't want a lecture, I'm trying to make this into a fun thing,” she tells them.

She goes on to show them how to apply soap and pour water over their hands then instructs them to sing for 20 seconds.

She points to one side of the group and says they must sing Shosholoza while the other side sings the birthday song.

The workers reluctantly start singing while she counts and demonstrates her handwashing technique.

Jones said an investigation had been launched into the matter.

“We have initiated our own investigation as we have received more complaints which will be consolidated,” Jones said.

Mmatepa Segooa, 28, who is among those who lodged a complaint to the commission, told Sowetan that she personally knows one of the domestic workers in the video.

“I think that this is absurd, why did she not teach them before lockdown and also why is she addressing the workers as boys and girls?” said Segooa.

Segooa said what the woman had done was inappropriate.

Outspoken journalist Redi Thlabi also found the video disturbing.

“The very personification of 'it's not about race'. Yet in broad daylight, you 'command' black adults to attend a lesson on washing hands because you are 'not about race' ... they alone need this lesson. Others can be exempt, because it comes naturally to them,” she retweeted.

Former DA politician Lindiwe Mazibuko was also not impressed: “This crisis is really exposing who some people are. Selfish, entitled, racist, condescending, utterly brainless. In what universe does the black woman who daily cleans the home that you have made dirty, need your instruction on hygiene or cleanliness?”

Mike Abel wrote: “This brainless, entitled, 'superior' woman makes me utterly ill. Whatever her 'well-intentioned' and misguided ideas were, she is, sadly, a fool. Totally unacceptable to treat adults and her equals [well, actually far superior to her, given their politeness] like children.”

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