The story of the bill from a Clifton Beach restaurant describing the table by the race of patrons at it speaks volumes about the deep-seated racism in South Africa even today. But more significantly it brings to the fore the prejudice meted out at Black South Africans by the Zimbabwean waiters, who have come to be the preferred group to be appointed as waiters at South Africa’s restaurants. I have no holy cows and so I call it as I see it.
The grand scheme of colonisation and apartheid legitimising the categorisation of people according to race is alive and well.
Instead of using table numbers, a system used globally to identify a table and not its occupants, the Bungalow Restaurant at Clifton Beach in Cape Town (where else) has discarded this method and is instead writing Black on its bills. The particular bill that has raised the wrath of many with the exception of a few sick whites and Premier Helen Zille, had “2 Blacks” on it.
There’s nothing more stupid than racism. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, during the hey days of marches and protests against the system used to mock apartheid and ask: “Imagine being governed by a system that looked at our noses and decided where you would go, eat and marry”?
Now imagine what waiters at this restaurant do when there are 2 Blacks at more than one table. How do they know which 2 Blacks ordered what?
In a quick spin of what is simply a racist incident, the Zimbabwean waiter has now been given a slot on eNCA (that Rupert and DA run television station) to apologise profusely but most importantly to take the blame. He has apologised and says he didn’t think it was offensive to identify the table as “2 Blacks” but by the way, he does it all the time though, he says. He sometimes writes “Whites” he says. The eNCA “journalist” didn’t ask to see the “whites bill” though. She didnt ask the restaurant why it replaced a Table No “1, 2 or 3” for racial classification. She didnt want to know why the waiter wasnt stopped every time he classified his tables this way.
The system in this restaurant allows racial profiling, that’s the bottom to this story. The system in this restaurant has allowed the waiter the ability to place “2 Blacks” in its bill when it could be so much easier to state the table number. Incidentally, there is a table number on the bill and the immediate question is why it must go beyond the table number to describe the patrons.
It probably has everything do to with the way those “2 Blacks” will be treated and the experience by many Black South Africans is that it will be shoddy. But does the waiter need reminding that he needs to be sub-standard when servicing Blacks? Why give the Black man whose bill is no cheaper than that of his white counterparts a bill that defines and identifies him not as a patron but a Black?
It is all about the inculcation of racism as a belief system that the whites by the colour of their skin are superior. The goal of racism was to exclude one group from another for the sole purpose of oppressing it. South Africa has had political freedom with very little economic freedom to accompany it.
But we are now “free” to go wherever we want – or perhaps not. In Cape Town the dompas system for which so much blood and lives were lost to abolish still remains. And what are the consequences in a country with a Constitution falsely described as progressive?
The “2 Blacks” bill in Cape Town (where else) reminds us that we may be equal and may pay that bill but we shall be reminded that we ARE BLACK. We may have the “Bill of Rights”, The Group Areas Act may be scrapped but a little piece of paper will remind you that those rights don’t qualify you to feel equal in that restaurant and in that province.
Helen Zilleville is making a reputation for itself as the most racist part of South Africa and its Premier Zille does very little to counter that reputation. She is intrinsically racist and frankly doesn’t see anything wrong in being racist.
She has managed to project the oppressor as the oppressed and with the backing of a neo-liberal media is succeeding. She doesn’t see anything wrong with this bill and equates it to any of the transformation policy meant to address the racist laws of colonialism and apartheid.