Monday, April 27, 2009

Racism within TZ as Arusha hotel denies access to Blacks.

Manyara-born conservationist David Maige, plus members of his family, had a nasty experience recently, which will be etched on their memories for probably the rest of their lives. The man, a Tanzanian national employed by Lake Manyara National Park, took his family to the legendary Lake Manyara Hotel for a leisurely outing that turned out to be an nightmarish anti-climax.

Upon approaching the main gate of the prestigious lodge, watchmen relayed a piece of information to him which didn`t register immediately as being factual - that the facility was a no-go zone for natives, but the preserve of foreigners and members of the power elite. Lake Manyara Hotel is one of the formerly government-owned prestigious lodges in the northern tourist circuit, which was privatized a couple of years back and is now owned by Hotels & Lodges.

The hotel is located nearly 6 km west-south of Manyara National Park. On Thursday this last week, the conservationist disclosed the experience to Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Shamsa Mwangunga. ``Honourable Minister, as domestic tourists, Tanzanians are facing discrimination at the hotel. We are not allowed to approach the facility, let alone getting in and being served,`` he lamented.

An irritated Minister Mwangunga paid a surprise visit to the hotel immediately, to establish the authenticity or otherwise, of the allegations. Two of its senior officials -- Group Operations Manager Fred Tenga and General Manager Hamis Juma, put up spirited defence, saying that restrictions on access to the hotel were driven by security concerns, in the wake of terrorist attack threats. ``Our hotel is close to a residential area, and so we felt it necessary to control unnecessary influx, taking into account that we have suffered three robbery incidents, `` Tenga told the minister, stressing that security of their clients is one of the top in their agenda. On his part, Juma told her that the restriction policy was imposed by the hotel management following attacks on some hotels in the East African region and elsewhere in the world.

``Since terrorists have no labels, the management decided to restrict an influx of local people into the lodge,`` the hotel boss noted. Responding, the shocked minister said the move was not only frustrating her ministry’s efforts to promote domestic tourism, but also contravened the laws of the land.

``Your theory is baseless; after all, these are Tanzanian facilities. How dare you bar them from having a nice time in their own hotel?`` Mwangunga asked. The minister then issued a one week ultimatum for the management to revoke the policy and to give her a feedback. A panicky Tenga apologized and said the policy was being withdrawn with immediate effect. Constructed about 38 years ago, Lake Manyara Hotel, Seronera, Ngorongoro and Lobo lodges formerly belonged to the Tanzania Tourist Corporation (TTC) and were later handed over to Tanzania Hotels Investment when TTC was disbanded in 1992. Some years back hotel and lodges were acquired by a local private firm, Hotels and Lodges Limited.

The firm spent between $14 million and $20 million to rehabilitate Lake Manyara hotel and Seronera, Ngorongoro and Lobo lodges.

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