‘No white people allowed’
Lagos – During a visit to Nigeria, on former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday on Saturday, parliamentarians from South Africa and other African countries refused to board a ferry, due to the company’s policy that states white people were not allowed on board.
“Our 67 minutes became 3 hours of protesting a heinously racist policy,” said Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, deputy speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, on Sunday.
“Emotions became quite heated at one stage. We said we can’t support a racist policy on Mandela’s birthday,” he said.
Members of the Commonwealth Alliance for Parliamentarians are currently on a two-week long study visit to Nigeria.
Ferry company policy
Saturday’s incident took place when they wanted to board a ferry in the Niger Delta for a sight-seeing tour to an island.
According to Mthimkhulu, it was the ferry company’s policy not to allow white people on their boats “for security reasons”.
This would mean that four members of the group – Jo Ann Downs (KwaZulu-Natal ACDP MPL), Athol Trollip (DA MP) and Glenda Steyn (DA MPL from Gauteng), and also a coloured parliamentarian from Namibia, who was taken to be a white person – would not be able to go on board.
The South African delegates immediately said they would not go on the trip if their white colleagues were not allowed onto the boat, said Mthimkhulu.
Parliamentarians from Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Gabon and Tanzania also protested, and eventually none of the parliamentarians went on the sight-seeing trip.
Company could be closed down
The governor of the River State later apologised to the group and said the authorities were not aware of the company’s policy. According to Mthimkhulu, he gave his word that the company would be closed on Monday if it didn’t change its policy.
In another incident, a security guard grabbed Downs’s camera after she and Susan Mnumzana, former Free State MEC for agriculture, had taken photos. Mthimkhulu said Downs’s camera was returned to her, after the rest of the group explained they were not aware that taking photographs was forbidden.
Mthimkhulu denied a report that the visit to Nigeria was “hell”.
When the South Africans arrived, there was a delay at the airport because arrival forms had not been given to passengers while they were still on the plane.
Otherwise, the group were treated like VIPs, Mthimkhulu said.
Downs could not be reached for comment.