SOME South African newspapers last month reported racism being still alive in that country, revealing how difficult it may be for blacks to secure a table in some of the upmarket eateries in a metropolis like Cape Town. This because the reservations manager would from their accents tell that they are black thus pretending to be overbooked. This happened to one black family until they enlisted the help of their white friend who secured a booking. But once at the restaurant they were told there must have been a mistake or mix-up with the particular booking and the black family instead had to be relegated to another seating, away from the guise of white patrons to whom the colour of the skin of this black family would seem just somehow a source of discomfort.
If you thought this is only possible in South Africa, and 21 years after apartheid was believed to have been sounded its death knell, you might be living in cloud cuckoo land, and in for a rude awakening. But an even ruder reawakening is in store for you because right here in your own backyard, racism or the vestiges thereof, seems sublime if not manifest altogether now and then.
I am sure many of you may still recall the incident at Onduri Hotel in Outjo when one of the ministers a few years back had a run-in with racism in being refused entrance. Even in later years, now and then news of one or the other incident of racism in what is supposed to be public places have been widely reported in the local media. Coming to mind most lately is the incident in Gobabis when some black would-be patrons had a run-in of being physically manhandled for entering a bar which apparently is for members only. What may eventually have happened to this case, which had a sequel in the magistrate’s court in the capital of the Cattle Country, Gobabis, your guess may be as good as mine.
In the capital Windhoek, some of you may also recall an incident at one of the nightclubs frequented mostly by whites in the Southern Industrial Area when a black patron in the company of his white friend was assaulted.
If these incidents have already faded from your memory, luring you into a false sense of tranquillity that racism in Namibia has been relegated to the dustbins of history, a shocker may be in store. Because only last week this columnist was informed of an incident at a certain eatery in the CBD area of the city. A black patron entered this eatery with most of the tables occupied, save for one which was occupied by a single white male.
Courteously this patron enquired whether this sole patron may have been waiting for other patrons so that he could occupy one of the seats, that is if he was not expecting anyone. The patron already occupying this table was actually not expecting anyone but did not prefer any company, perhaps not a black one for that matter, instead wanting to have this table all to himself, and alone. The other patron insisted on occupying one of the empty chairs at this table but getting an unwelcoming nod, he proceeded in comforting himself in one of the empty chairs nevertheless. His neighbour at the table already turned for recourse to the owner or manager, as it would be, with the latter insisting that the black patron, who seemed to have been intruding on the privacy of his fellow white patron, to leave the eatery.
Over his dead body would the black patron leave this eatery, even if the owner would dare call the Namibian or City police, whichever. Eventually the white patron decided to leave. Whether the black patron who was left behind was eventually served given the emotionally charged circumstances, one does not know.
But here we are in Namibia 25 years after, and still some people think that public places are their private domains. As much some owners of some public places seem to think that they can bar and order patrons around in the belief that they can rely on such empty and meaningless legalities like “right of entry reserved”. Pointers which many a times may be used as camouflage for racist intent. But owners of such public places must be forewarned that they cannot continue to hide under such meaningless legalities, neither must some patrons think such public places are their private havens. If they want their privacy and exclusivity, which at times may be placation for their racist attitudes, then they better confine themselves to the comfort of their private homes, and the craze of their gated and barricaded homes where these days they seem to comfortably and apparently safely be retreating in their habitual solitude, among their own Caucausian hybrids, away from the leprosical menaces of Africanity.