No space for bigots in post-apartheid SA

2011-01-22 13:10

There should be no room in our society for resorts, restaurants, nightclubs and schools that deny anyone a place because they are black.

Yet this is what the Naboomspruit resort, Lekkerrus, seems determined to do, with its “whites-only” policy.

Why is Lekkerrus doing this? Simple: management believe they can get away with it. But the resort is not alone in trying to sneak apartheid back into South Africa via the back door.

In case you imagine that these acts of racism are limited to places of leisure, let’s turn to the story of seven-year-old Randy Mtsi, who was forced to leave Laerskool Dalview in Brakpan after just one day.

Headmaster Tommy Weys says that the child was kicked out because he does not understand Afrikaans.

How long does it take for any seven-year-old to learn a new language? Across the world, parents enrol their children in classes where the kids have to play catch-up. Children are like sponges, eventually Mtsi would have coped.

The principal is using language as an excuse to cover up the more sinister reality that the class must be kept pure white. Otherwise, he would have instructed the teacher to offer the young innocent support, so he could master Afrikaans as quickly as possible. But no, instead throw the child out with no regard for his future. You’ll probably get away with it.

This kind of rejuvenated apartheid is not always as crude as in the cases of Lekkerrus and Laerskool Dalview, but make no mistake that it remains part of our daily landscape.

We are often told that Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, for instance – but you would be hard pressed to find a black person who has not been at the receiving end of the city’s common racist practices.

Cape Town’s authorities spend millions trying to lure visitors, but its food and hospitality industries are rife with discrimination.

One of Cape Town’s busiest nightclubs, Asoka, recently grabbed the headlines for its shameful treatment of black patrons. Cape Town-based writer TO Molefe – as respectable a patron as any – was recently barred from entering the venue. “Closed for a private function,” he was told at the door.

Once Molefe shared his terrible experience at Asoka, however, other victims of the club’s discrimination came forward with similar tales.

Despite the denials of its owner, Asoka clearly practises a policy of making it as difficult as possible for black people to become its customers. The club simply gets away with it.

When called out for their “subtle” racism, South African business owners will deny all knowledge of the hateful practice and even try to blame their staff.

But it’s clear their aim is to stoke the embers of apartheid, which many of us hoped had died out years ago.

It is high time that our society was completely rid of those who take us backwards to the evil system that robbed generations of South Africans of their dignity.

Places like Lekkerrus, Laerskool Dalview and Asoka should not be allowed to trade in racism, and they should not be allowed to get away with it.

If they know they can get away with this kind of outdated behaviour, then others may also be tempted to get in on the act and before you know it, you have to phone a restaurant, a pub or even a hotel to first find out if it has a whites-only policy.

Those who own or manage resorts, restaurants and nightclubs need to take great care in what they tell their staff is acceptable behaviour.

Those in the hospitality industry who remain silent as these practices are carried out underestimate the blow to the collective image of establishments located at or near where these offensive events take place.

Ultimately, the staff will only do those things that they know will be condoned by their bosses. It is high time these bosses told their staff that there is no place in post-apartheid South Africa for the practices of discrimination that for so long shamed our country.

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