Should the City of Cape Town take up the fight against alleged Racism in Cape Town?


City of CT Racism a1 Whale CottageI had seen a news report about Mayor Patricia de Lille taking a stand against allegations of racism in Cape Town, and did not take any note of it, the R-word being a very sensitive one (increasingly so, I feel), which can potentially lead to abuse and other criticism.  I changed my mind when I saw a series of advertisements in the latest Atlantic Sun, and as I was on the receiving end of an extreme attack of racism in Green Point last week.

Mayor de Lille appears to have reacted to allegations by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa that Cape Town is ‘racist‘, obviously implying that ‘White’ residents of the city are racist towards residents of other population groups in Cape Town.  She launched the ‘Inclusive City‘ campaign and ‘Cape Town against Racism’ advertising campaign on Human Rights Day on 24 March.

The advertising campaign is visible in the Cape Town freesheets, being a series of three full-colour advertisements, designed rather amateurishly by ad agency King James!   The ‘Keziah’ ad says ‘We fear what City of CT Racism ad b 1 Whale Cottagewe don’t know. We judge what we don’t know’. The tag-line of the campaign states: ‘Don’t let Racists speak for you. Know your rights. Your dignity must be respected and protected’, with the new City of Cape Town logo designed by King James’ design agency Yellowwood about a year ago, to huge criticism!

The ‘Henry’ ad says: ‘Enough is enough. Give up on old school stories‘.  The pay-off line differs slightly from the ‘Keziah’ ad: ‘Don’t let Racists speak for you. Know your rights. You can associate City of CT Racism ad c 1 Whale Cottagewith whomever you want to’.  A heavily tattooed ‘Baden’ is quoted as saying in the third ad ‘Racism is a negative trait and thought process. It’s self-defeating’.  The pay-off line for this ad is as follows: ‘Don’t let racists speak for you. Know your rights. You can do whatever work you choose’.

A media snippet from the City of Cape Town says its campaign ‘seeks to address issues of alleged racism and where we educate people on their rights and how to activate those rights’.

The DA issued a statement about the anti-Racism campaign, adding a political spin to the campaign.  It does however explain what the campaign is about:

Today the Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille officially launched the Inclusive City Campaign.  This campaign is aimed at creating public platforms for dialogue to confront what makes some residents feel excluded and some entitled.   The DA welcomes this move as we believe that constructive dialogue is an essential step in tackling racism.  We further welcome the City leadership’s commitment to working directly with industry to actively prevent race from being a factor in property deals, restaurant bookings, treatment in stores and other facets of everyday life.

To this end the Mayor has announced today that the City will lead a campaign with industry bodies to address those individuals within the property, hospitality, university, media, and retail sectors who cannot get past their prejudice. Today we celebrate Human Rights Day and reflect on the sacrifices that were made in order for South Africans of all races and ethnicity to live in an inclusive society based on a culture of rights.  In doing so we also recognise that racism is sadly still pervasive in many of South Africa’s communities around the country. We also recognise that reconciliation has not been fully achieved or embraced by all.  The spate of racist attacks in the city over the past few months demonstrates the prejudices and attitudes that some in our society still hold.

The City of Cape Town has shown leadership and courage by launching this campaign and we challenge all other municipalities to create similar platforms for open dialogue on racism.  Racism is not a Cape Town problem, it is a South African problem. Each one of us can make a difference to end racism and bring about a more inclusive society which many fought and died for’.

New Wesgro CEO Tim Harris surprisingly had a media release issued, in which he expresses his support for Mayor de Lille’s anti-Racism campaign.  Oddly the release emphasises that Cape Town and the Western Cape benefits from a R17 billion contribution from the Tourism industry, that the domestic tourism market is the lifeblood of tourism in our province, and that ‘the hospitality sector of the Western Cape welcomes all visitors to our province‘.  Harris adds: ‘The Western Cape hospitality industry works to provide excellent service to all South Africans. Wesgro will assist Mayor de Lille in her campaign against racism because it is the right thing to do, and because it’s good for business in our province’. Harris previously worked for the City of Cap Town before moving to Wesgro last month, and was a DA MP. His predecessor Nils Flaatten was seen to be closely aligned to Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde, making Harris’ media statement about a City of Cape Town ad campaign extremely odd and politically incorrect, especially so early in his new career at Wesgro!

There is no way that such a lightweight advertising campaign will turn racism around in our city and province.  The campaign is not explained, no media statement from the Mayor’s office having been found via Google.  The copy in the ads is corny, without credibility. Wesgro’s political posturing about the campaign has no credibility, being a serious trade, investment, and tourism promotion agency for the Western Cape.  One has no idea what Harris is referring to in terms of alleged racism in the tourism industry, other than the much publicised incident at Azure restaurant over Christmas!  No industry bodies for the Tourism industry have communicated this campaign to its members!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  Tel (021) 433-2100, Twitter:@WhaleCottage  Facebook:  click here

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