MPLs say hotel staff was racist

2011-10-01 00:00

THE KZN Legislature may take the owners of an Eshowe hotel to the Human Rights Commission after MPLs claim the hotel staff was racist, a charge the hotel ownership vehemently denies.

The deputy speaker, Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, is expected to review a report submitted by the aggrieved MPLs on whether to take the matter further against the George Hotel.

The MPLS were staying at the hotel on Wednesday evening. They were part of the KZN Legislature’s mock parliament in the Umlalazi Municipality held from September 29-30 specifically to engage with the elderly in respect of the United Nation’s International Day for Senior Citizens (October 1).

It is alleged that only the African MPLs were denied access to the restaurant and told to eat in the conference room where trestle tables and uncovered plastic chairs were set up, although four white MPLs were already seated in restaurant.

The African MPLs further claim that once they were eventually allowed to eat in the restaurant the food was served late, the staff was rude and the rooms the black MPLs were expected to sleep were not what they were expecting.

Legislature spokesperson Wonder Hlongwa confirmed the incident. “The deputy speaker has been informed on this matter, a report has been submitted to him and he is likely to review it this weekend. By next week we should know what is going to happen,” he said.

The hotel’s Graham Chennels said he is “horrified” by the row.

“We are working so hard to promote this area and now, in a single moment of confusion, I must defend my establishment as not being a racist institution. The restaurant and the hotel are separately owned. The KZN Legislature members were being catered for by the hotel and not the restaurant, hence the tables and chairs in the conference room.

“I don’t know how the four white guys ended up in the restaurant, but they shouldn’t have been there. The complaints of the tables, chairs and rooms are unreasonable; we are just a country hotel in Zululand, not five-star establishment,” said Chennels.

He said his family has over the last 30 years built schools, orphanages, creches, feeding points and skills centres throughout rural Zululand, including 3 000 classrooms.

Dave Stark, a school teacher in Eshowe who witnessed the incident, believes it was simple miscommunication, not racism. “I am very angry about what has happened. I am white and my wife is black so I know about racism. The [George] hotel is a place where we do most of our socialising because we feel completely comfortable. It is one of the few places in Eshowe in which different race groups can mix and socialise. The owners of the hotel and restaurant are among the most liberal people in town. I have never, in five years, experienced or seen acts of racism at the George Hotel,” said Stark.

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