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Face-to-face with racism

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THERE is a painful forgotten history about the deep racism in Zimbabwe. 

It is a sad human history of how imperialists treated Africans worse than animals. 

For example, black people being captured in Africa and eventually being kept in human zoos in Europe.

The case of that little black girl back in 1958 in Belgium who was kept in a zoo, attracting an estimated one million white spectators who would constantly feed her with bananas like she was a monkey is one such incident.

Or how Sarah Baartman, whom they nicknamed Hottentot Venus, was shipped off to London and put on display to exhibit what the whites termed as a sexual primitive and extraordinary phenomenon of nature for a fee, attracting a higher charge for the elite to touch her or have sex with her.

She died aged 26 in France from an inflammatory disease related to syphilis.

Even in death, she was still a slave who continued to suffer humiliation as her body was dissected, her brains and genitalia pickled and placed in jars on display at a museum in Paris.

In Zimbabwe, 41 years after the country dislodged the colonial system, racism still persists.

Many blacks continue to suffer at the hands of the minority whites.

They are called derogatory names and humiliated.

Last week, The Jam Tree, a local white-owned restaurant located at 40 Bargate Road in Mount Pleasant, Harare, was embroiled in a racism storm after a black couple made allegations that they were called derogatory names by a white manager at the high-end eating hub. 

The Jam Tree management, which also owns The Smokehouse in Bulawayo and Three Monkeys in Victoria Falls, is accused of segregating its patrons, with some of the allegations claiming the restaurant has a secluded ‘whites-only’ section where blacks are barred from accessing.

The victim, identified as Nyari Munda, took to social media to expose the restaurant and the abuse he claimed to have suffered at the hands of the white manager.

In a facebook post that caused an outrage from Zimbabwean users of the platform, Munda wrote:

“Yesterday my wife and I went to get food at this establishment (Jam Tree), and on getting there, we asked if we could park in the back car park by the golf course whilst we wait for our food. The waiter told us it was okay and we should park in the usual spot.

We drove there and parked on the grass literally three metres away from the owner’s car. There was a gardener there watering the grass and he didn’t seem to have an issue with where we parked.

To my surprise this white South African guy (the owner), came from nowhere and started yelling at us for parking on wet grass. The guy called us dumb, stupid and all sorts of derogatory words.”

I urged him to communicate properly since we are regular customers of over eight years, and we are here to promote his business. He jumped right back into a crazy fit and said we don’t need people like you supporting my business.

The guy was so heated at some point I thought he wanted to fight me. He kept pulling crazy faces, taunting me, storming away then coming back as if he’s about to fight. Once again, I kept calm and watched this mad man talk to us like we are worthless.

I apologised again and cautioned him to address clients nicely but he wouldn’t have it and started with the insults again. He then stormed into Jam Tree, where we heard him yelling at the workers at the top of his voice.

Soon after the waiters including the chef rushed to the car park and started apologising on this guy’s behalf. They begged us to stay but at this point we were fed up. Even the gardener was shocked at this guy’s conduct but he just watched in amazement.

He openly shouts at his workers in front of guests and uses a lot of racist derogatory statements. A year and half ago the same guy told me to f*** off when I complained about my meal. I threatened to go to social media and he said ‘it’s people like you we don’t want here’…

He has no respect and he thinks this is South Africa. The workers always look terrified when he’s around and he talks to them like dogs. Jam Tree was a better place before this new management took over.

After 9 years of being a loyal client, I don’t think I’ll ever go back there again.”

Following the incident, #JamTreeMustFall, #NoToRacism and #JamTreeMustClose trended over the past week.

Some patrons went a step further and poorly rated the restaurant on Trip Advisor and Google.

Jam Tree issued a statement apologising to Munda and his wife, confirming the incident but denying that it was a racist attack. 

“As most of you are aware, there has been a post circulating on social media in which one of our managers has been accused of racism…,” said Jam Tree in a statement.

“The first thing we would like to put out there is whilst the owners of Jam Tree acknowledge that an incident took place, we vehemently deny that it was a racist attack in any way.

Jam Tree prides itself as being a multi-cultural venue. This shines in everything we do. From our music policy to the food we serve, the drink brands we support, including many local products, we are a proudly multi-cultural venue.”

However, most patrons would not hear of it noting that their conduct and manners stink of racism.

Tafadzwa Jengwa wrote: “I say #NoToRacism, it’s unacceptable in an independent Zimbabwe.”

Noma Kay Mathe also wrote: “We refuse to be reduced to nothing with your racism. This is not your Cecil John Rhodes era. For your establishment to make the $ it is us the black people that you do not respect. Stop racism.”

Some patrons have called for the restaurant to be shut down.

Dr Cee Munemo wrote: “The problem is just not with the racist owner. It’s also with the whites that happily sit in the whites only section and the black people that continue to visit this restaurant. We thank the latter for preserving the jobs of our fellow black brothers who work there but this one deserves a boycott.”

Tanatswa Taruvinga wrote: “No place should discriminate against any race! If you can’t treat black customers fairly then shut down.”

Some white patrons also took to facebook to express their displeasure at their fellow brothers and sisters.

Sandra Woods wrote: “Racism is the very thing we are trying to fight, Let us boycott this Jam Tree. The food was not good anyways.”

Michaela Jade wrote: “Reading all these posts I suddenly feel so sad for the amazing people who work for Jam Tree. If a client can be treated the way that man was- how’s this oak treating his staff?#NoToRacism.”

Jam Tree responded by blocking and deleting comments on their facebook page.

The Patriot visited the restaurant to gather more information concerning the incident.

“This happened three weeks ago, however, it’s now a closed case,” said one white staffer at The Jam Tree.

“We have engaged Nyari and our management talked to him and reached an agreement.

“Nyari has since pulled down his post on facebook’s Name and Shame page.”

This is not the first time Jam Tree has been accused of racism.

On September 16 2018 another black customer Rachel Chi took to facebook to complain of racism at the same restaurant.

Chi reportedly sat for 45 minutes without any waiter attending to her, but attending to other white patrons who came in after her.

“We just left Jam Tree with my two friends and toddler. We left after sitting for 45 minutes with no waiter attending to us. After about 20 min sitting there like lost people, my friend went to ask for a waiter. He said he is coming but never came… 

Mind you when we arrived 15 min in a not black family walked in and were served and given drinks but we walked out without even touching the menu…”

It seems there are other several incidents of racism in the hospitality industry targeted at black workers and patrons.

Unfortunately, many have kept quiet, choosing to let this abuse slide for the sake of preserving jobs.

Infuriatingly, they say, ‘We are now used to it’.

For how long shall the colonial legacy live on?

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