Caring or condescending? How Zelda La Grange's 'handwashing' tweet landed her into trouble

17 March 2020 - 07:40
By Cebelihle Bhengu
Nelson Mandela's former PA, Zelda la Grange.
Image: Esa Alexander Nelson Mandela's former PA, Zelda la Grange.

Former president Nelson Mandela's PA, Zelda La Grange, deactivated her Twitter account after receiving backlash for a Facebook post perceived by many to have been condescending and “racist”.

La Grange trended on Twitter after her now deleted Facebook post, telling employers to show their domestic helpers how to wash their hands, as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), went viral.

Here's how and when it all happened:

'Teach your housekeepers how to wash their hands' — Friday

“If you have a housekeeper, nanny or gardener, garden services or anyone in your employ, demonstrate to them what a 20-second handwash looks like. Explain and show them how the virus transfers though handshake, touching money, ATMs. Don't assume they know,” read her post, in part.

She said she demonstrated this to her two employees, gave them soap to wash their hands and vitamins to boost their immune systems.

Some accused her of implying black people could not clean themselves. Others said she was condescending and that her post contained racial undertones.

'I'm not racist, I've supported people who struggle for 20 years' — Sunday 

La Grange did not take well the widespread condemnation of her views. She took to Facebook on Sunday to respond to the backlash, saying she raised awareness of Covid-19 because her employees did not have access to information via the internet or TV.

She denied being racist.

“I have spent the last 20 years giving back in supporting people who struggle. I have done so with the purest intentions as I believe it's only collective effort that will make this country work and every small action can add up in changing people's destiny.”

She also announced her decision to terminate the employment of her two casual helpers. She said if she was as racist as some said, then she did not deserve their friendship and would let them go.

For the past two days I have been lambasted by the social media mob for calling on people to ensure everyone around them...

Posted by Zelda La Grange on Sunday, March 15, 2020

Attempts by TimesLIVE to get a response from La Grange were unsuccessful at the time of publishing this article.