Hundreds of well-wishers have donated money to a waitress to cover the tip a black Oxford student refused to pay because she was white.
Ashleigh Schultz, 24, was reduced to tears when Ntokozo Qwabe – a leader of the campaign to remove a Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford – and a friend wrote on their cafe bill: ‘We will give tip when you return the land.’
He bragged online that they had made her cry ‘typical white tears’, leaving him ‘unable to stop smiling because something so black and wonderful had happened’.
The incident last week at Obz Cafe in the Western Cape, South Africa, has ignited a backlash against Mr Qwabe, who was branded a racist bully.
Ashleigh Schultz works two waitressing jobs to support her mother who has cancer. Ashleigh’s friends said she had already been feeling low that day as her mother was quite sick.
One said: ‘She has a very sick mother she cares for, and had to move flat recently and is worried about all of this. She did burst into tears because she is having a tough time at present.’
Stacey-Leigh Wood, a friend of Miss Schultz, said: ‘This is so sweet of everyone that donated. That other idiot [Mr Qwabe] still needs to be slapped though.’
South African Mr Qwabe is a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, meaning he receives money from the Rhodes estate to study.
But he is also one of the leaders of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, which wants the statue of the 19th-century imperialist removed from Oriel College.
The various online campaigns were triggered by an outraged South African, Sihle Ngobese, who decided to pay the tip himself and said:
‘Qwabe is someone that claims to speak to the downtrodden and the disenfranchised yet he has the audacity to bully a working-class young woman.
‘I just wanted to make a small gesture to show South Africans that if we love and respect each other it makes our country great.’
Roman Cabanac, who hosts a CliffCentral show, began a Twitter campaign that had raised R44,777,70 when closing last night while the GoFundMe page created by Ernst Shea Kruger, a South African living in America, has already raised over R60 000.
The donations were rolling in at such a rapid rate that Ernst had to raise the goal posts several times.
“Wow. I am at a loss for words. I have had to adjust the goal several time because donations and support for Ashleigh Just keep rolling in. Thank you all. This is one very BIG statement against racism. I will keep everyone updated as we approach the end of this campaign. All I can say is THANK YOU. You are all Awesome.”
Cabanac said the response was phenomenal with R6,000 raised in the first five hours of the post going up.
“We just wanted to help the lady out. We later found out her mother has cancer and she is working to support her. This whole debacle shows how RhodesMustFall lost the momentum they have.”
Both Cabanac and Kruger have stated that all the funds were going directly to Ashleigh Schultz.
In his incendiary Facebook post last Thursday, Mr Qwabe boasted he and his friend – a ‘radical non-binary trans black activist’ – had refused to pay the ‘white woman’ a tip, instead leaving the note.
Mr Qwabe wrote: ‘She sees the note and starts shaking. She leaves us and bursts into typical white tears.’ He said a male waiter then approached the table to ‘annoy us more with his own white tears telling us that he finds our act racist’.
He added: ‘It is irrelevant whether you personally have land/wealth or you don’t. Go to your fellow white people and mobilise for them to give us the land back.’
Thousands have condemned him online, labelling him as a racist hypocrite, with some saying that he had become the very thing that he hates. A petition was also created to revoke his scholarship and degree but later shut down for various reasons.
Candice Holdsworth wrote: “Showing a stunning lack of self-awareness‚ Qwabe‚ in his recollection of the incident‚ does not recognise that as a student of law at one of the world’s most prestigious universities‚ he is probably more privileged than a waitress working a minimum-wage job. Even if she is white and he is black.”
Charmaine Rowlands wrote: ‘I cannot believe an educated person – educated with a “white racist” grant by the way – could stoop this low’.
‘Please tell Ashleigh we, that is all South Africans who do not tolerate racism, stand with her and others who do an honest day’s work for next to nothing.’
Adrian Coetzee said: ‘It is a sad day that someone that is as privileged to receive a scholarship cannot appreciate how hard someone that isn’t as blessed has to work to achieve an education that he is taking for granted.’
The money will definitely make a difference to Ashleigh in her current situation but more so the acts of kindness show solidarity against racism, hatred and bigotry.
South Africans are again leading the way by uniting behind that which is good and right, proving again the power of the collective spirit of Ubuntu.