FNB caught in race row

The EFF is mounting a protest campaign against First National Bank for reinstating a white bank manager it earlier sacked for allegedly calling a black teller at its N1 City Mall branch a “stupid monkey”.

The EFF says the manager, Tania Olsen, made the racist slur against bank employee Andisiwe Noludwe in January. A disciplinary hearing in August found Ms Olsen guilty and she was dismissed, but reinstated later after her union appealed.

Ms Noludwe has now opened a case at the Equality Court in Goodwood, and on Monday the EFF held protests outside the FNB branches in Goodwood and in Paarl, where Ms Olsen now works.

Bernard Joseph, the EFF’s Western Cape chairman, said the party took the issue up with FNB’s provincial management after the EFF heard of it from Ms Noludwe.

Ms Noludwe said Ms Olsen had called her and other staff “stupid monkeys” on Monday January 4 when she and a few other tellers, who have since left the bank, refused to open the door for her while they were counting money.

“We close the bank doors in the morning when we take money out of the big safe to prepare for the day. We cannot open the doors at that time because people can rob us while we are counting the money, and as a manager she was supposed to know that,” said Ms Noludwe.

“When we were done, we could then open the doors. When she came in, she started shouting at us and said, “You stupid monkeys were just looking at me? Why didn’t you open?”

Ms Noludwe reported the case to the operations manager at FNB.

“I can’t understand what I did to her. All I was doing, is my job,” said Ms Noludwe.

She claimed Ms Olsen had also accused her of having an attitude and didn’t bother to greet her.

Ms Noludwe said her relationship with Ms Olsen had grown increasingly frosty, and the manager had looked for faults with her work performance. When Ms Olsen wanted to give her a warning, she refused to sign it and instead handed in her resignation in May.

However, the day after she left the bank on Monday June 27, FNB’s human resources department had offered her the job back if she wanted it. Ms Noludwe is still employed at the N1 City branch.

Ms Olsen, however, left the N1 City branch for the bank’s Paarl branch at the beginning of July. But later that month, she was suspended, pending the outcome of the disciplinary hearing into the racism charge.

FNB spokeswoman Lee-Anne van Zyl said the bank did not tolerate threats to workplace diversity and had decided to dismiss Ms Olsen.

“Our rigorous disciplinary processes are conducted in a fair and objective manner and in accordance with applicable legislation,” said Ms Van Zyl.

However , senior internal industrial relations practitioners had recommended that the dismissal be overturned after Ms Olsen’s union had appealed the decision. Ms Olsen returned to the Paarl branch.

Mr Joseph has slammed this decision.

“Such behaviour from the white advantaged minority cannot be condoned. In essence, FNB is saying that the black employee, as well as the witnesses, has lied and that they believe the story of one person (their white manager),” he said.

“If this serious issue is not addressed speedily and actions acceptable to EFF implemented, we will have no other option to call on all EFF members and the broader public to seriously reconsider their continuous relationship with the bank,” said Mr Joseph.

Marlene Le Sueur, a clerk at the Goodwood Equality Court, confirmed that a case of discrimination had been opened at the court last week.

Northern News contacted Ms Olsen on a number provided by Ms Noludwe, but a man who answered and who would not identify himself said Ms Olsen was not available. Northern News also contacted FNB Paarl in order to get comment from Ms Olsen, but the area manager, Jannie Stander, said Ms Olsen was not available as she was on leave.