South African house music producers, Black Motion have filed for a R3.7 million lawsuit against Comair, owners of the British Airwaysfranchise in South Africa for alleged “racism, public humiliation and falsely accusing them of terrorism which damaged their brand” on a flight in December 2017.
Thabo “Smol” Mabogwane and Bongani “Murdah” Mohosana who make up Black Motion claim that they were asked to move from their business class seats to economy and make way for one white passenger, simply because they are black.
The duo were the only two black passengers in business class and feel that they were racially profiled to move to economy.
According to legal documents obtained by City Press, a chair was missing a back rest and not reported by staff, which caused a white passenger to lose her seat.
The Black Motion boys were then identified by a white British Airways cabin controller as the first to move to economy.
According to the papers seen by the publication, when the duo questioned this, the police were called and they were instructed to leave the aircraft.
According to Smol, who spoke to City Press, he and Murdah were confused as to why it had to be them that were asked to give up their seats.
“Why us? And why both of us when only one seat is broken? The white lady who took my seat even said she feels so embarrassed. I told her it’s okay, I’m not angry with you,” he told the publication.
“I asked, is it because we’re wearing beanies and stuff? Because we look different to other people in business class?” he continued.
He further claimed that the cabin crew got upset when they refused to give them their cellphone numbers.
However, Comair has denied racially profiling the duo, blaming their procedures instead.
In a legal document filled by Comair CEO, Erik Venter, the company apologises “unreservedly” for the incident and they admit that “our procedures were at fault”.
They also promised that their flight crew would be disciplined.
Despite this admission, the company said that they were only prepared to pay R50 000 in damages to Black Motion for the gig they missed, instead of the R3.7 million they boys are demanding.
Comair has claimed that the duo was “very rowdy”, “verbally abusive” and that they “got angry and started shouting and swearing”.
They also claimed that the captain asked the boys to vacate the plane because he no longer felt safe flying with them on board, essentially accusing the boys of being a terrorism threat.
However, according to City Press, although Comair claimed that Black Motion were first to be downgraded because they were travelling on discounted tickets and not because they are black, a draft investigation report from Comair shows there were at least three white male passengers who should have been downgraded ahead of Black Motion.
Furthermore, a number of eyewitnesses were allegedly shocked by the accusations made by Comair.
An eyewitness told the publication that the musicians were “calm and quiet” when he arrived at the scene.
Another witness said: “I guess some people might say the one guy raised his voice, I wouldn’t. He was being firm about what was clearly shabby treatment,” referring to Smol.
The police were also allegedly shocked and apologetic about the situation.