Staff claims ANC’s guests roughed it

2012-01-11 00:00

WERE some of Africa’s heads of state short of VIP treatment during the ANC’s centenary celebrations at the weekend?

If some workers at the Woodlands Wildlife Estate in Bloemfontein are to believed, the visitors may indeed have had to rough it.

Reports from Bloemfontein said there was no red carpet treatment, with visiting delegations allegedly forced to buy themselves everything from food, pots, linen, glasses and bottled water during their stay.

Mampho Mmelaedi, who was hired as a housekeeper at the house set aside for Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, told Bloemfontein’s Express: “Ugandan officials raced out of Woodlands to buy their president duvets, food and other essentials. There was just a bare mattress on which he could sleep.”

The newspaper said presidents who had similar experiences at Woodlands, included Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika, Equatorial Guinea’s Theodoro Obiang Nguema, Namibia’s Hifikepunye Pohamba and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.

Its report was based on interviews with 15 women, aged 19 to 66, who were part of a team of 90, who worked as chefs, waitresses, cleaners and housekeepers at the estate.

Another worker, Motladi Metsing, said Namibian officials went out to buy pots, food, plates and glasses to prepare food for their president. “ I could see that he was angry and disappointed.”

The delegations from Nigeria and Benin allegedly left soon after their arrival because of the conditions.

“They kept on asking us whether we worked for the ANC or the South African government. We did our best to explain that we were just hired for their visit. … We were embarrassed to be there,” said Kenalemang Pula.

Reached for comment late last night, Museveni’s press secretary Tamale Mirundi was unaware of any problems. At the time of going to press he was still trying to confirm the veracity of the reports, as he was not part of the delegation.

However, Mirundi emphasised that if the reports were true the Ugandans would not have complained, because they saw themselves as fellow Africans, not visitors needing special treatment.

“We are Africans, not Europeans.”

The company contracted by the International Relations and Co-operation Department to provide cleaning and catering services dismissed the workers’ claims.

Valentine Rantsoareng, co-owner of the Rantsoareng Hotel Group, said a menu had been provided in advance and some VIPs deviated from the set menu, for example wanting to eat chicken instead.

“I think the people who are making these allegations are somewhat angry because they have not been paid yet, but I have received the invoice now.”

Free State ANC spokesperson William Bulwane said: “You are not the first newspaper to alert us to this. Although we have not yet received any official complaints from heads of state we are going to be following this up with the estate tomorrow.

ANC national spokesperson Jackson Mthembu was also unaware of any complaints.

“We are not aware of any instances where heads of state had to go out of their way to secure linen or pots for private use. This was an event arranged by government and government made sure that all was in order.

“However, there were some instances where private houses who opened their doors to guests of the ANC did not adhere to the contract signed with the ANC. In these instances we dealt with these matters.

“Everything would have come past me so I would have known if any complaints have been made.”

International relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela was also in the dark.

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