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Media Release: SANParks “surprised” at unreported racism allegations in TMNP

Date: 7th January 2010

Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) has recently come under fire in the media for alleged racism, related to its People’s Trail Hut. According to media reports, two students were allegedly refused accommodation there because they were “white”.

Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) has recently come under fire in the media for alleged racism, related to its People’s Trail Hut. According to media reports, two students were allegedly refused accommodation there because they were “white”.

The complaint was apparently lodged with a civil rights group and then taken to the media. South African National Parks (SANParks), which manages Table Mountain National Park, has to date, not received any formal complaint about the matter and was alerted to this through the abovementioned media reports.

Reynold Thakhuli, spokesperson for SANParks said, “We understand that incidents of this nature can happen and we do have systems in place for dealing with this but what surprised us most, was that SANParks never received a formal complaint from the boys. The first we heard of it was through the media.”

Despite not having received a formal complaint, SANParks launched an immediate investigation around these allegations which included trying to establish which of the various booking offices the call was made to and who would have taken the call. “This process is hampered by the fact that the complainants have not been able to provide us with a telephone number dialled from their cellphone and we have been informed by their father that the boys are still on holiday outside the country and cannot be reached,” said Thakhuli.

He also said that SANParks has an open-door policy in terms of complaints. “Telephone numbers and email addresses are readily available and we even have our website through which concerns and complaints can be directed to us. The sooner these complaints are brought directly to us, the easier it is to resolve as there are no gaps in the process as we are seeing now.”

Thakhuli also said that with this open-door policy, there has not been a need for clients to direct complaints anywhere else as has been done in this case, with AfriForum being the first recipient of the complaint rather than SANParks.

About the People’s Trail and the accommodation in question, Thakhuli explained that SANParks has a People and Conservation (P&C) Division that is tasked to work with the communities, specifically the previously disadvantaged groups around the parks. The People’s Trail was developed as part of a P&C project which aimed at exposing these groups to the experience and understanding of nature and the natural area that they reside in. The overnight accommodation is designed as part of this trail for these educational groups but booking this accommodation is not exclusive to previously disadvantaged individuals, it can be used by anyone provided a booking has been made well in advance.

“We will pursue this matter till it is resolved. If it is proved that people have been turned away due to their skin colour, this is a matter that will have to be seriously addressed internally. SANParks is a non-racial organisation and any discrimination of this kind would be against our vision which is to make national parks ‘the pride and joy of ALL South Africans and the world’,” said Thakhuli.

Issued by:
SANParks Corporate Communications, Groenkloof National Park, Pretoria

Inquiries:
Reynold “Rey” Thakhuli, GM: PR, Media and Stakeholder Relations, South African National Parks, Tel: (012) 426 5203, cell: 073 373 4999, e-mail: ReyT@sanparks.org

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