Henceforth, as black people, we too demand quality customer service

Compatriots, please note that I am on the lookout for whoever instructed black people that their fellow Africans are not deserving of quality customer service. I am also on a relentless search for a person who instructed whites, Indians, Chinese and so on and so forth and others like that, that black people only value the most disgusting and horrible of customer service.

It is said that in ancient Europe when members of society carried themselves contrary to what the powers that be deemed appropriate, those members would sometimes be beheaded. Of course, there is a whole debate as to whether those who were in power were morally correct in carrying out such a brutal punishment, or if they were correct at all in how they wielded their power. Tomes and tomes of books have been written, lambasting and decrying how these men of power treated their fellow men whom they disagreed with in such an inhumane and callous manner. History suggests that these powerful individuals erred. Ironically some of them ended up as victims of the very vicious methods of killing they helped perfect. However, in my case, I do not think history will judge me harshly if I were to locate this person or persons responsible for dishing out cruel and ill-mannered instructions I mention in the previous paragraph, and resolved to dispatch them straight to the guillotine – after all, a sin deserves punishment, and the crueler the sin, the harsher the punishment.

I imagine some of you are reading this piece with your intestines twisting with disgust, horror and judgement; but that is fine. You are permitted to feel that way. It means you are a human being with compassion, albeit wasted in this case. For eons black people have been subjected to unacceptable customer service, and maybe your disgust, horror and judgement should be directed at this grave misconduct or those who were and still are perpetrators of this behaviour. Mahatma Gandhi might have been a racist douchebag who thought and believed Africans were lesser than human, but he was correct when he stated the following: ‘A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.’ It seems that Gandhi’s words fell on deaf ears where black customers are concerned.

Distasteful and unsatisfactory customer service targeted at black patrons seems to always linger in the air like fart from a Date My Family guest, waiting to attack them as soon as they make the ‘mistake’ of entering an establishment. We are all aware of the treatment of black customers at the hands of cashiers from retailing giants such as Pick n Pay, Spar, Checkers and Shoprite; and as soon as white customers enter the premises, if the same cashiers could, they would lay red carpets. That is the difference service and treatment that is being accorded to black and white customers as if the latter are better than the former. What is more painful and shameful is that majority of these cashiers happen to be black.

In some establishments black patrons are trailed by security guards to ensure that they do not steal. That is usually after they have been forcefully instructed to leave their bags at the door where security of their belongings is not even guaranteed. The fact of the matter is that as Africans we are disrespected everywhere we go in this country. To my dismay and disappointment, my people have come to accept and embrace this subhuman treatment; and any black person who seeks to raise hell about this ugly matter is quietly dragged into the alley and reprimanded by his or her fellow black people for ‘daring to upset the system’. This is the world we live in. We have come to accept blatant injustice against ourselves as normalcy that is therefore good. Perhaps I should also add to my hit list a person who instructed my people to embrace bad service as something that is standard and acceptable. They too deserve to be sent to the guillotine to be beheaded, and their head hung high in a public arena for all to see that as black people we will no longer tolerate second-class service and bad manners.

I have also noted that even the Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Chinese nationals who – and to my surprise and disappointment have taken ownership of almost every tuck shop in the townships and villages across the country – have adopted the same mentality: black customers are to be treated as lesser than animals. I suspect that upon his return from South Africa to India, the little man Mohandas Gandhi spread his racist gospel about Africans across the rest of Asia. They too suffer from the same superiority complex that has afflicted white South Africans ever since they arrived on our shores almost four centuries ago. If they are not serving us stinking attitude on a tray, they are selling us expired goods. As to why the previous owners of these tuck shops have relinquished their ownership to foreign nationals, is a question I probably need a PhD in Economics and Sociology to answer.

Since the dawn of democracy, we have weathered the storm of owners of white establishments refusing to grant black patrons quality service. In fact, some have refused to allow black patrons to enter their businesses. Ladies and gentlemen, this prejudice is meted out by the very same people who do not flinch when they speak of the magnanimity of Tata Nelson Mandela – a man who would be celebrating his 100th birthday anniversary later this year had he been alive.

In a remarkable and emotionally searing piece, and maybe his best literary output, published on Mail & Guardian almost five years ago after the passing of Tata Nelson Mandela, Andile Mngxitama made a startling if not chilling observation relating to the legacy and departure of this famous son of the soil. But before I proceed to that part of the piece where Mngxitama takes his pen and turns it into a sjambok that he uses to whip those who praise Mandela while they trample over his people, here he is announcing the death of Madiba to the world: ‘Our father is gone! A muffled cry is heard in the house as the dark cloud of death settles and nestles. A deep yet confused search for the meaning of the loss registers in the souls of the living. Tentative at first, then Vilakazi Street bursts into dance and song for, in death, all quarrels are suspended and the desire for sainthood is pronounced even more loudly.’

He continues: ‘There is an unsaid truth: blacks want Nelson Mandela to be their first black saint who stands the test of time. Madiba is gone! We blacks are denied all, including our hard labour and our unsurpassed intellectual innovation that created Egypt’s eternal pyramids. Black hands and brains built that ancient civilisation. But we know these words strike the world as lies and hallucinations, to be fobbed off with an impatient and arrogant wave of the hand. What will it help us to wail our truth: “We gave Europe civilisation and tamed the barbarian spirit of the West with the gift of mathematics and philosophy”? Truth is, Timbuktu is buried deep in the sands of white supremacy, denied and refused.’

Now here is Andile Mngxitama taking the sjambok to lash at those who sing Mandela’s praises while they deny his people, his own kith and kin, a mere quality service. He lambasts them thus: ‘Whereas Vilakazi Street is populated by song and dance, Houghton, the seat of old money, burst into tears that ran into deep rivers – up to the cathedral of consumption, Sandton’s Nelson Mandela Square. Zakes Mda’s Tolokie, the professional mourner, comes to mind. Is the white world crying for Madiba or for itself? Is this strategic mourning?’ I seriously doubt if there has been anyone who has attempted to substantially answer Mngxitama’s question since he wrote this article in December 2013.

On a daily basis, black people are told they can never afford shoes they like, houses they desire and the food they wish to enjoy. Black patrons, because they are black, are denied quality service and humanity when they go on holiday around the country. Some black patrons have even been chased away from hotels and holiday resorts for daring to demand quality service, because, like an assaulting smell of yesterday’s alcohol coming from the mouth of an unrepentant hedonist, the old ‘Europeans Only’ mentality lingers unperturbed in South Africa – the birthplace of Nelson Mandela.

Compatriots, from this new year of 2018 onwards, as black people, we too demand quality customer service. As we celebrate 100 years since the birth of Madiba and Mama Albertina Sisulu, let this be the year that the humanity and dignity of black people, the kith and kin of Nelson Mandela and MaSisulu, is acknowledged; starting with granting them quality service. As for that person, or those persons, responsible for spreading half-truths about Africans not being worthy of respect, manners and dignity, I am dead serious about them deserving of the harshest of punishments. If they have died, they will have to be resurrected so they could be beheaded to emphasise the gravity of this matter. In the meantime, those of you who still think less of my people, please stop. Like any other human being of other races, black people also deserve quality service and pleasant treatment. Until then, pula!


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