The parents and siblings of Johannesburg businessman Adam Catzavelos have gone into hiding after they received death threats over his racist video.
“This week while I was at my dad’s house the telephone rang. When dad answered the person on the other end said he was coming to kill him,” said Adam’s elder brother, Nic.
“We are terrified. I have never been afraid living in my country before. Now when I walk to my mother’s house 800m away from my home, I look over my shoulder. We are living in fear.”
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Times, Nic laid bare the toll his brother’s video – which he filmed while on holiday in Greece – had taken on the family.
In the video, Adam, who is still in Greece with his wife and children, uses the K-word as he films himself boasting about a beach holiday where “not a single k****r” is around. Adam sent the video to a WhatsApp group and to friends. It was then leaked.
Nic said his brother’s actions were totally abhorrent.
“He has brought shame on the family, who have never harboured ill will towards anyone in SA.
“He has not just betrayed us, but so many more. The betrayal is of his children, his children’s friends, and the people of colour who he knows and who he is friends with.”
A number of organisations that did business with the family’s company, St George’s Fine Foods, this week ended their relationship with the company. The company provides bastings and sauces to restaurants across South Africa.
Nic said it was difficult to tell if the threats to their lives were real.
“It’s hard to ignore what has been said. We have had to place our parents in a place of safety. We fear for our kids when they have to return to school, although staff have been supportive.”
Nic said there was no way to prepare for something like this.
“In the space of four days our lives have disintegrated.”
Asked if his brother was a racist, Nic said: “He made a video that is obscenely racist, which speaks for itself. There is no way the video could be taken out of context. You cannot wrap this up in cotton wool.”
On Friday Adam issued a statement apologising for the video, saying he had been “thoughtless and insensitive”.
He said: “I have watched my video and feel total shame. It is hard to put into words what I want to say and genuinely apologise.”
Nic said he was not speaking out on behalf of his brother, but rather about the effect those comments had had on the family.
“I have read his apology and have spoken to him. I told him that he has to look deep within himself and be honest [with himself].
“I told him one cannot be half racist. You are or you are not. I told him that he needs to . be honest about it and deal with it because it is extremely hurtful to people.”
An emotional Nic said the toll on the family was immense.
“Our parents are shell-shocked. My mother this week told me we will never have a Sunday lunch or a Christmas as a whole unit ever again. Adam’s wife Kelly and his kids are totally devastated and embarrassed.
“My kids, who were born post-apartheid and who have friends of all races, are devastated. They have not been raised like this and cannot understand how someone they love could say something like this. We told them the truth, that Adam has done a terrible thing, which was hurtful to people, which will create major difficulties.”
He said the family completely understood the backlash.
“Who wouldn’t be angry? It’s despicable, and given our country’s history, it’s completely understandable.