'Emotionally bruised' artist left with questions over Airbnb staircase assault

2017-07-12 18:43
Screengrab of the Airbnb incident.

Screengrab of the Airbnb incident.

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Cape Town – Visual activist and photographer Zanele Muholi on Wednesday expressed her outrage at the attack on her friend at an Airbnb property in Amsterdam, which left her injured after tumbling down a staircase.

She said she was "angry, numb, frustrated and emotionally bruised" by the assault on Sibahle Steve Nkumbi at the weekend. Nkumbi and three other crew members had joined Muholi to write and perform at the opening of her exhibition at Stedelijk Museum.

As their host, the museum booked the Airbnb property, west of the city centre, on their behalf. Muholi said they had a great opening at the museum and had confirmed travel bookings to leave Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon.

"Instead, it ended in tears, trauma and hospital admission for one of the youth." A video clip showing Nkumbi flying down the stairs went viral.

Amsterdam police told News24 on Tuesday that four women had rented an apartment and were supposed to leave around 11:00 that day.

"Around 12:30, the women got in an argument with the person who rented them the apartment about the time they had to check out," said police spokesperson Marijke Stor.

She said Nkumbi's statement was taken after she was released from hospital. They arrested a 47-year-old man.

In a video interview posted to YouTube on Monday, Nkumbi said she had apologised profusely at the time for staying an hour over the check-out time.

After they spoke with the host's wife, the host apparently arrived at the property, banging on the door and shouting for them to open up. Nkumbi said the man was verbally abusive and that the attack was racially motivated. She believed there was no provocation as she was trying to reason with him and calm him down.

He allegedly referred to their group as "you people" and said, "You need to leave now, this is not Africa".

"When I got close, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to grab me. And the way he grabbed me, I knew he was going to throw me down there," Nkumbi said in the video interview.

"I lost grip of the wall and that is when I flew down." On Wednesday, Muholi said the team had "requested a late check-out”.

"As they packed their belongings, he persisted unreasonably – shouting and acting aggressively. He first threw the baggage of the guests down the stairs whilst still shouting, and then forcibly pushed Sibahle Nkumbi down a steep flight of stairs face first."

Gender-based racist violence

Muholi described the incident as an act of gender-based racist violence, by a man who was taller and stronger, in a place that was meant to be a "space of safety".

"The questions I am stuck with: Would the Airbnb owner have reacted the same way if it was a white female of Dutch descent? Was he going to do the same if he were dealing with another man?".

She said Nkumbi and the witnesses would need counselling. "It will take some time for healing and further check-ups will be needed and we hope for a full recovery."

The Netherlands’s public prosecution service, Openbaar Ministerie, confirmed to News24 on Tuesday that they were sitting with the case docket.

Spokesperson Evert Boerstra said the man was suspected of "poging doodslag", or attempted manslaughter, which was the equivalent of attempted murder in South Africa.

The prosecutor was soon expected to make a decision on whether to pursue the case in court. The host was released from police custody on Sunday. "The fact that the man has a permanent residence has played a role in that decision," Boerstra explained.

Airbnb condemned the "abhorrent conduct”, saying its top officials were reaching out to affected guests. Its actions would include banning people for life from the platform and assisting authorities where necessary.

Read more on:    airbnb  |  amsterdam  |  women abuse

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