The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment-Creation said it will launch an investigation into tour guide companies which are paying their black tour guides less than their white colleagues, Deputy Minister Alpheus Muheua told The Villager this week.
“It is a violation of the law that someone’s salary is determined by the colour of their skin, and this level of racial discrimination is sickening”, he stated.
He said he was not aware that these practises were taking place, and the ministry will now launch their own investigations into the matter. Should anyone be found guilty of such practices, they will face the full wrath of the law.
“We will send people to investigate the matter further because at this point, all we have are just accusations. Once they are confirmed, we will come down hard on those responsible”, he said.
This week, it was confirmed to The Villager by Industrial and Human Resources’ Coordinator at the Namibian Tourism Board (NTB) John Siloisi that black tour guides in Namibia are getting paid less, compared to their fellow white colleagues.
He said white tour guides have had the advantage of being bilingual, which has given them a boost in remuneration.
This discrimination has been demotivating to many black tour guides as they find it hard to articulate themselves in foreign languages or engage with foreign tourists, even though they have obtained the same qualifications as their white colleagues.
“Tour guides who are more familiar with the area they live in would step aside so that white tour guides can tell the tourists about an area, exactly as it is on a pamphlet”, he explained.
According to Siloisi, the tour guiding industry is big, and there is a huge need for tour guides currently.
“We encourage locals to take part in tour guiding. We want them to spearhead tourist activities because they understand their culture, and through this they will be building themselves”, he added.
Although they regulate tour guides, the NTB does not regulate how lodges or other tourism entities treat their guides.
“We only advice guides on their conditions of employment. We cannot be regulating someone’s business”, Siloisi said.
“The white tour guides who are currently in Namibia are mostly foreigners, who have seen the opportunity of being a tour guide in Namibia and have settled here” he noted, adding that he is not sure if they are working in Namibia with va;id and legal permits or not.
The NTB is now busy with tour guide regulations, which will be made effective soon through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which regulations will allow foreigners to register as tour guides with an employment permit and a permanent resident permit.
“To be a national tour guide, you have to register with the NTB. Most white tour guides are national guides, although there is a colour coordination, but black tour guides dominate the site-based tour-guiding where they are employed by a lodges or game reserves”, Siloisi said.
It is very rare to find white tourists doing field tours with tourists. To be a field guide, it is not required to register with the NTB.
Employment Equity Commissioner (EEC) Vilbard Usiku said if that is the case, then a formal complaint must be submitted to his office, and they will have launch investigations.
He stressed that if tour guides are doing similar work of the same value, then the remuneration must also be similar. They must be on the same salary scale.
However, he said some people might have been at a certain place longer than the others, thus the difference in remuneration.
“Another thing could also be the issue of qualifications. Some tour guides might be more qualified than others, thus getting paid more than the others”, Usiku continued.
He said it could also be that some people are getting paid according to their performances, and thus the manager would have performance incentives in place for the tour guides.
“This process should, however, be transparent so that there can be justification in the differences in salaries”, he added.
Usiku said at some of places, it might be that national tour guides travel with tourists from one end of Namibia to another, and they might thus feel more superior than the field guide and try and dominate the whole guiding experience.
Trade unionist Evalistus Kaaronda, for his part, said he has not yet not heard about such complaints from tour guides. But if such issues persist, the affected party must go straight to unions and make their complaint, he advised.
“That is straight discrimination. People must not wait to be told to cry for help, they must come to our offices or offices of labour officials and tell them about their issues so that they can be looked into”, he stressed.
Kaaronda is the leader of the Namibian National Labour Organisation (NANLO), which he registered after he was fired from the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW).
Meanwhile, Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta said he is not aware of such payment discrimination in the tour guiding industry.
“All tour guides fall under one category, and it will be very uncalled for if guides doing the same job suffer payment discrimination because of colour differences”, he said.
He added that they will look into such issues, and if they really exist, they will act.
Shifeta said tour-guiding is an important part of the tourism sector.
“Tour guide companies are dominated by some people, mostly the previously advantaged who have been in the industry for a long time.
Previously disadvantaged groups must take part more in tour-guiding activities”, he added.