The Tour Guides Association of Namibia (TAN) has come under heavy fire from Namibians over racism due to a perceived white domination with reports that some of the leaders from within are outright racist.
However, the criticism has polarized public opinion with some coming out to state that this is a case of reverse racism where the domination of black people in other sectors is not being equally discussed.
Eagle FM has managed to pool in the views of some of the notable players in the tourism space in the quest for an answer to the question of whether racism in the sector was a myth or a fact.
A picture collage surfaced on social media yesterday in which only one black tour guide, Joel Robert Gebhardt, was said to be the only black face in a pool of white tour guides.
When tracked down by this radio, Gebhardt was not keen to address the issue but said that he was surprised to hear that he was still listed on the membership catalogue of TAN when he has since distanced himself.
“I am very, very, very surprised to hear from you that I am still a member of TAN! I resigned from TAN way back, two to three years ago. And I am failing to understand how I can still be a member if I do not even pay membership fees. I did not know my name is there,” he said.
Gebhardt said he can not speak for TAN as he has moved on due to the fact that he did not benefit anything out of it.
Faustin Akilanga, former vice chairperson of the organisation, has however said that there were incidents during his tenure where some white people refused to shake his hand.
He also said that while the association itself can not be said to be racist, there is a feeling of alienation that black people have felt.
“It is something I know. I do not like doing politics and I don’t like creating trouble. The majority are actually white colleagues. Few of them are black ones. When you discuss with black (members), I was trying to push most of the guys to join TAN, they refuse completely saying that they do not find themselves in that kind of association. They claim that TAN is not for their interest. But logically, TAN is open for everyone,” he said.
Akilanga said the white members have been there for long and some “still have the mentality of I am the best”.
He added that the feeling of alienation by black people is, rather than being a race issue, an issue of white people sticking to together because they know each other more.
Akilanga also said it is fair to say that the conversation and debate is unfair because blacks also do have domination in other sectors of the economy.
Chairperson for the Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations (FENATA), Netumbo Nashandi, said she cannot say that there is racism or no racism in the tourism sector.
She said conversation she has had with those that are leading the association has highlighted that TAN remains a non-racist and racially exclusive association which was open for all.
She however stated that healthy conversations such as these are needed in order to move on towards a sustainable path of sectorial growth.
FENATA is voice of the private sector of the tourism industry in Namibia in support of environmental sustainability, growth and development of our tourism products for national economic stability and increased business opportunities.
Speaking to Eagle FM on the Early Morning Scoop, Nashandi said, “I am saying that we need to look into Namibia’s position, we need to look at our history, we need to look at our colonial and apartheid past.”
“The stuff that is happening in the tourism sector is above and beyond tourism, we still have legacies of previous laws that have not been rectified. I am not saying that racism is not there but I am acknowledging that we have problems that we need to conversate on in the tourism space. And we cannot move forward unless we have these conversations,” she said.