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2008-11-19: Abusive resident ordered to perform community service

A JOHANNESBURG resident was ordered to perform eight hours community service after he used derogatory language in a letter to the City's Revenue Department.

In a judgement delivered by Judge N P Willis in the Equality Court, a letter written by Mr Nick Wooley was described as "hate speech" and he was ordered to refrain from issuing a letter of similar tone in future.

The judgement also found that the statements contained in the correspondence were "derogatory, insulting and hurtful" and that they "had no place in a democratic society."

Mr Wooley was ordered to report to the City's Revenue Department where he is to perform eight hours of community service spread over a period of three weeks.

City of Johannesburg spokesperson, Gabu Tugwana, says the City's legal department welcomes the judgement because it set guidelines for cordial relationships between residents and employees of the city.

"Many of our employees deal directly with members of the public on a daily basis.  Constructive public criticism is expected and would always be welcome. Frustration and anger can not equal to use of foul language. While the public demands high standards of professionalism from our officials, it is fair to expect them make an extra effort to treat employees with dignity and respect.

"In the overwhelming majority of cases we enjoy an excellent relationship with clients who approach the city for assistance or information through our customer relations departments," says Mr Tugwana.

"This case is a clear indication the City will not hesitate to support its employees if we there is evidence that they are being insulted or abused. This judgement shows that the Court supports the principle of dignity and respect."

Tugwana said this was not an easy decision for the City to take. Numerous appeals were made to Mr Wooley to withdraw use of strong language but he refused to do so. An application was then made to the Equality court. In court he admitted the allegations against him and apologised for his actions.

Tugwana said that the City employees who were the victims of the abuse accepted the admission of guilt and Mr Wooley's apology. They decided not to take the matter further by claiming for damages.

(Note: Case number 21322/08; Judgement in the Equality Court of South Africa: Witwatersrand Local Division.)