By: Kelvin Chiringa
The owner of Hoodia Desert Lodge located in Sossusvlei has confirmed barring Russian nationals from accessing his premises after accusing them of rowdy behaviour and making sexual advances towards his staff.
Thomas Becker Hoodia has, however, attracted scorn from some fellow tourism players who have now accused him of being racist and not following due procedure to resolve the situation.
But he has told The Villager that he took the measures to protect his staff and guests, both local and international.
“On my property the air is clean, and my international guests and foremost our dear staff are very happy to be left in peace from now on – no racial slurs from drunk.
Russians, no jokes about my gay guests anymore and no fake Rolex theft, which was no longer a theft after the police arrived and the Russians fled in fear of arrest,” he said.
He added, “I could tell the world (about) my 13 years at Hoodia Desert Lodge. We protect our team and do not appreciate having them treated like pigs by some guys who feel entitled to. So, that’s it. I appreciate the publicity as all my cooperate agencies love how we commence our business for years and care about our community”.
Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) boss, Digu Naubeb, said he has had “rumours” about the incident, but no official complaint has been made at his office yet.
But he said the NTB can not do much because lodges have the right to reserve admission.
“The issue has not been brought to us formally, but I hear the grapevine. But as the regulator, we do not, in terms of our Act, have any mandate to deal with issues of that nature.
“If it is discrimination, racism, there is a provision in law by which this case can be brought to the police. The police, who are properly mandated, have the power to investigate. As much as we obtain information, under the law, there isn’t anything further that we can do,” said Naobeb.
The Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) chairperson, Janet Averia Wilson-Moore, has also corroborated NTB’s take.
“If you look at it, any entity can apply that blanket ahhh, (the) right of admission is reserved (policy). If someone feels offended by it, I think it’s a case that they can take to the police,” she said.
In the meantime, Hoodia has laughed off accusations that he has adopted a racist stance against the Russians by banning them en masse.
“I don’t give a sh@#t what people say. I protect the dignity of my people and guests, and if other places like to host guys visiting with “their daughters”, they can. I’m a Slavic, so calling me a racist is an easy ove (sic) bit has no substance as I am then against myself.
“I have wonderful Russian friends in New York and London. They are embarrassed to see their own people behaving when they travel. The Russian ministry issued even guidelines, how to behave abroad to their nationals – you must be kidding me,” he said.
He also said that the police in the area had to be picked up by private vehicles for emergency issues when asked if he had called the police to fix the problem.
Hoodia has, in the meantime, take a swipe at fellow tourism player Nrupesh Soni whom he suggested was behind accusations against him.
“And the police – yeah, great here in Sesriem. Call them after 9 pm. And if you get hold of them, you have to pick them up as no vehicle (is) available. That is the brutal reality here, and Soni does not have a f#@king clue what he is talking about. This time he messes with the wrong man!
“And if someone damages your place, makes sexual advances to your female staff offering them cash for…you have to sadly take up your (fire) arm and solve it alone. I told that Nrupesh and I told him as well that he encourages racism in Namibia in not preventing that from happening but just bla bla bla,” he said.
However, Soni has refused to engage in personal attacks, saying he is concerned about policies discriminating against a whole nationality.
“Any policy that denies someone entry because of race, religion, gender, ethnicity should not be tolerated in Namibia. We are proud of our tourism offerings and welcome everyone to visit Namibia. And if there is an issue that an establishment has against people of certain origin, it must be dealt with by having policies in place that discourage that kind of behaviour. Having policies in place that completely ban people of a certain ethnicity is unconstitutional and illegal in Namibia. There is no defence against that,” he said.
The Villager is informed that some in the industry feel that Hoodia’s stance towards Russians may negatively portray Namibia’s international image.
Some had expressed that this brings back memories of Apartheid when discrimination used to be the order of the day.