South Africa: Customer Assaults Pregnant Shoprite Cashier

Heavily pregnant Shoprite cashier Zimkhitha Xhalabile was assaulted by a male customer in Shoprite in Strand. Shoprite has banned the customer from its stores.

Zimkhitha Xhalabile from New Village in Nomzamo, Strand is eight months pregnant. She had just closed her till in the Shoprite in Broadway Mall, Lwandle, on 9 September, when a customer demanded that he be assisted. "The closed sign was there, he removed it and said I had not left, I must assist him."

At first, she says, she argued with the customer telling him to use another till but when he became aggressive she decided to assist him. "While I scanned his items we kept on exchanging words, with him issuing insults, saying for me to get paid he has to buy and I must respect him as a customer."

In video footage of the scene, the male customer can be seen arguing with Xhalabile and making hand gestures before punching her. A security guard was watching the whole argument and stepped forward to hold Xhalabile after she was assaulted. A manager arrived to remove the customer.

"I had to call my husband for him to take me to the hospital then later to the police station to open a case. Shoprite ... did not apprehend the man who assaulted me. He was escorted out by the security."

Wiseman Manjangaza, Xhalabile's husband, said he arrived to find his wife crying and red-faced. "She was bruised, and I asked why she had not been taken to hospital."

Xhalabile says she was given four days off and told to come back to work if she wanted to get over her experience. "I got counseling once and I was told to go face my demons if I want to move past the whole situation. I was denied leave since I will be going on maternity leave soon." She says she is afraid of bumping into the man who assaulted her, fearing he might attack her again.

In response to GroundUp's questions, the Shoprite media team said the company strongly disapproved of the customer conduct visible in the video and had banned the customer from its premises. "It is unfortunate that an unhappy customer decided to physically attack one of our employees who had already closed her till but continued to assist the customer when he insisted on concluding his transaction at the till point. Security and management on duty, along with customers who witnessed the incident immediately intervened and aided the staff member, whose husband transported her to the hospital for a thorough examination when the ambulance service called, could not immediately assist."

Shoprite said Xhalabile had been asked to return to work after a recommendation from the counsellor. "She was off duty for just over a week after the incident and to assist her in dealing with the trauma, during this time also received counseling arranged by the company and was rescheduled to work again based on the counselor's recommendation for her to resume duties."

Police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk confirmed that a case of assault had been opened by Xhalabile. "The incident took place at a shop in a shopping mall in Lwandle where the complainant was physically assaulted by a customer after an argument. The suspect has not yet been arrested however the investigation is continuing."

The assault takes place at about 30 seconds into the video. Video from Shoprite CCTV

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