'Auckland Council failed me,' says Congolese-Kiwi after claims of racist death threat at diversity festival ignored

A Congolese-Kiwi says the Auckland Council has "failed the community" after his report of a racist death threat at a diversity festival over the weekend was ignored by three separate event staffers.

Redelond Tsounga, a masters student at Auckland University, says he was labelled a "black shit" and told he would be killed by an opponent while participating in a football tournament at CultureFest, a council-run event in Mt Roskill over the weekend.

Tsounga has now gone to the Human Rights Commission to report the incident after his claims went unheeded, allowing his alleged abuser to continue playing in the tournament - including against another team featuring African players.

Auckland Council has denounced the abuse Tsounga received, saying it's "saddened" and "devastated" to hear of such an incident going "directly against the ethos" of the festival.

'You kicked me and abused me'

Tsounga - a New Zealander from Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo - says he was abused while working as a volunteer for Refugees as Survivors (RAS) during CultureFest on Sunday.

The alleged incident occurred while he was playing with the RAS youth team in a football tournament being hosted at the event, which celebrates ethnic and cultural diversity.

After being kicked in the leg by a "provocative" opponent, he complained to the referee during a break in play and ran back into position. His opponent allegedly followed him and told him: "You black shit, I will kill you outside."

"I was shocked and traumatised to hear that kind of racial abuse, open racism, at a festival of culture, where we're celebrating the diverse cultures of New Zealand," Tsounga told Newshub of the incident.

"The festival is called [CultureFest], it's about cultures coming together in a harmonious way - so it was unexpected for me."

Redelond Tsounga filmed himself confronting the rival team, a member of whom he alleges racially abused him.
Redelond Tsounga filmed himself confronting the rival team, a member of whom he alleges racially abused him. Photo credit: Supplied

Tsounga says he approached the referee with his racial abuse claims both during and after the game, but they weren't followed up.

Still upset by what he'd experienced, he filmed himself as he walked across the field and confronted the team.

"This guy racially abused me, he called me 'black shit'. You kicked me and abused me," Tsounga can be heard telling them in the footage.

"You're living in Aotearoa; this is not the place for you to show that kind of behaviour, this is a place of diversity and inclusion. You did it at the wrong place, and to the wrong person."

He was disappointed the team didn't take his allegations seriously.

"I told them, 'you should be talking to him so he doesn't do it to anybody else'," he said.

"They were laughing and joking, and I told them 'this is not a laughing matter'. This is not the place to show racist behaviour when people are trying to come together.

"If you don't want to meet with other cultures, don't come to this kind of event, because this is an event where all cultures come together. If you know you're going to play with people of different skin colours, don't come to this."

'Lack of accountability is a massive failure'

After his dispiriting conversation with the other team, Tsounga reported the incident to the organiser of the football tournament, before escalating it to one of the festival managers.

He was hopeful they'd take action, but was disappointed when they didn't seek to identify the offending player nor offer Tsounga anything more than their sympathy.

The man who'd allegedly abused him was able to continue playing in the tournament - including against a Somali team, which Tsounga says proved organisers weren't interested in "protecting anyone else who looked like me".

"I was really let down. I was let down by the way the managers handled it; it was really casual, like they didn't really care," he said.

"There was no punishment... CultureFest and the Auckland Council failed me, failed the youth and failed the community - and the same person who did the behaviour was actually playing even more games.

"The lack of accountability is a massive failure. I'm really hurt and disappointed by Auckland Council."

Auckland Council's Director of Customer and Community Services, Dr Claudia Wyss, told Newshub the organisation does not tolerate racism of any kind, and is saddened to hear about this incident.

"[It] goes directly against the ethos of the event," she said.

"Our event organisers spoke to Mr Tsounga on the day and were confident the incident was resolved to his satisfaction, however in light of these reports, we welcome further dialogue with him or any other parties involved.

"We are devastated that this has been an outcome of an event that we host as a celebration of our Tāmaki Makaurau’s diversity."

Kiwis 'comfortable' with racism - Tsounga

Tsounga was really unhappy with the casual response of CultureFest staffers, which he says is representative of how racism is treated in New Zealand.

Tsounga says he's suffered racism on other occasions since immigrating here, but never to the extent he experienced at CultureFest - the place "where you would least expect a lot of racism".

He said he had a young boy come up to him wanting to join the RAS team, and was conflicted about what to tell them because he didn't want them experiencing racial abuse themselves.

"The issue of racism, people are just comfortable about it. People say 'it's not OK' - but it's not OK to just say it's not OK. Fifty-one people were killed in Christchurch because of racism," Tsounga said.

"People will never understand because they are not victims, they never experienced racism, so they will never understand what it's like to be abused in that way.

"This wasn't even a microaggression; this was open racism with a threat."

Tsounga has now reported the incident to the Human Rights Commission. 

Meng Foon says the impacts of racism are traumatic and leave those victimised by it with "deep-rooted scars".
Meng Foon says the impacts of racism are traumatic and leave those victimised by it with "deep-rooted scars". Photo credit: The Hui

Last week, the organisation released a new report - Drivers of migrant New Zealanders' experiences of racism - which revealed those who've immigrated here are experiencing racism "everywhere they go".

The report says negative experiences of racism experienced by migrants includes white privilege, racial supremacy, negative bias and stereotyping.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon noted the impacts of racism were traumatic and leave those victimised by it with "deep-rooted scars".

"Our migrant communities should not have to change themselves to fit into white society. Migrants must feel safe in expressing their language, culture, and identity," he said.

"No one should be made to feel they do not belong in Aotearoa, worry about their public safety, or experience negative mental wellbeing because of discrimination or racism."