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Journalist's expulsion from restaurant leads to debate about racism in Angola

Vestimentas de Hossi Sonjamba no dia do acto | Foto usada com permissão por Hossi

Hossi Sonjamba’s clothes on the day | Photo used with Hossi’s permission – 26 August 2018

The alleged violent eviction of a journalist from an upscale restaurant in Luanda has caused an online controversy, leading to debates about racism and discrimination in Angola.

On 26 August, journalist and activist Simão Hossi visited the Café Del Mar restaurant with a group of friends. On the instructions of the managers, two employees followed Hossi when he was on his way to the restroom. The employees then allegedly assaulted and expelled him from the restaurant with the excuse that Hossi was poorly dressed.

Afterwards, Hossi took to Facebook and shred his version of events in a post:

Ontem, domingo 26 de Agosto, desloquei-me a Ilha de Luanda, em companhia de 3 amigos sendo um deles um Cidadão Norte Americano que esteve em Angola a trabalho, trata-se de Jeremias Dito Dalí, Massilon Chindombe, e o Rudy Massamba que veio de Washington DC.

(…) enquanto procurava-se pelo lugar para sentarmos decidi ir ao banheiro e, como não conhecia a casa perguntei a uma atendente, esta indicou que fosse sempre em frente por estar apresada, como não achava, perguntei a uma funcionária de limpeza, está por sua vez questionou-me logo de onde vinha, eu respondi a ela no caso a funcionária que estava no interior do restaurante e que precisava do banheiro, ela indicou-me e fui usar o mesmo.

Tão logo saí do banheiro deparo-me com mais ou menos 4 a 5 seguranças internos vulgos Caenches que abordaram a minha pessoa com as questões, o que estava aí a fazer, de onde vinha e, estes por sua vez obrigavam a segui-los eu questionei para onde eles queriam levar-me se estava acompanhado. Foi assim que eles a força, um deles pegou me a força como se um bebê até fora do recinto do restaurante onde fui atirado ao chão, este mesmo que carregou deu-me bofetadas, para além destes em conjunto terem preferidos palavras de que, aquele não era o local para mim, mesmo eu tendo insistentemente afirmado que estava acompanhando com mais 3 pessoas.

Quanto a questão das minhas vestimentas, eu estava de chinelas de facto, estava com uma calça e camisola normal, havia pessoas com calções e chinelas mas fui mesmo o alvo.
Para mim o pessoal da segurança não agiu isoladamento, tiveram cobertura da gerência do restaurante.

Yesterday, 26 August, I visited the Ihla de Luanda, in the company of 3 friends, one being a USA citizen who was in Angola for work, they were Jeremias Dito Dalí, Massilon Chindombe, and Rudy Massamba who came from Washington DC.

(…) while looking for a place for us to sit I decided to go to the bathroom and, as I did not know the place I asked an attendant, they said it was straight ahead as he was busy, as I did not find it, I asked a cleaning employee, for her part she asked me quickly where I came from, I answered her like the employee inside the restaurant and that I needed the bathroom, she showed me and I went to use it.

As soon as I left the bathroom I came across more or less 4 to 5 muscly internal security staff that accosted me with questions, what was I there to do, where did I come from and, they then forced me to follow them, I asked where they wanted to take me while accompanied. It was then they used force, one of them took me by force like a baby outside the restaurant area where I was thrown to the floor, the same one who carried me also struck me, and as well as this they also chose words that, this was not the place for me, even though I had been insistently saying that I was accompanied by 3 other people.

As for the question of my clothes, I was actually in flip-flops, I was wearing normal trousers and a long shirt, there were other people with shorts and flip-flops but the target was just me.

For me, the security staff did not act alone, they were covered by the restaurant’s management.

The story was widely shared on social media and many people have publicly criticized and protested the restaurant's actions — among them long-time clients. Hossi was also invited to discuss what happened on the most watched television channel in Angola, TV Zimbo.

In a Facebook post, which was later shared in the newspaper O País, Presidential advisor Ismael Mateus claimed that this case of racism against Simão Hossi is only one of thousands that occur in the country.

According to Mateus, racism in Angola is nothing new, but people prefer to pretend nothing is happening. In some companies, he explained, having lighter skin is a passport to a job or preferential treatment:

Acontece nas nossas barbas e enquanto não tomarmos consciência disso, as coisas vão continuar. Um dia, quando alguém perder a cabeça e acontecer um incidente grave, ninguém se irá lembrar das pessoas que andam há anos a dizer que precisamos de discutir o racismo contra a grande maioria negra.

It happens in front of us and while we do not take notice of it, these things will continue. One day, when somebody loses their head and a serious incident happens, nobody will remember the people who have been saying for years that we need to discuss racism against the large black majority.

The restaurant's reaction

In their own defense, the restaurant wrote that Simão Hóssi had been dressed inadequately and unacceptably. According to their version of the incident, Hossi was approached by a member of the cleaning staff who reproached him for his poor state of dress. The restaurant management then alerted the head of security who asked Hossi to leave the area which created an unpleasant situation for other clients.

Outside the establishment, police officers on patrol in the area were called in to intervene on behalf of Simão Hossi, who alleged that he had been assaulted. This was disregarded by the officers as he did not show any signs of being assaulted.

Internet users divided over the event

In a Facebook post, Joaquim Lunda, a friend of Hossi, said he did not understand how something like this could happen:

…várias vezes eu já estive neste local em que mencionas, de calções e chinelos e ainda hoje estive lá de calções e chinelos, mas tive um bom tratamento pelos funcionários…será que discutiste com algum funcionário, coisa parecida? Acho mesmo muito estranho isso que acabas de mencionar.

… I have already been several times to this place that you mention, in shorts and flip-flops and even today I was there in shorts and flip-flops, but I was treated well by the staff…could it be that you had an exchange with one of the staff, something like that? I think that it’s very strange, what you just mentioned

Miguel Quimbenze put the blame on Hossi, arguing that he must have treated the cleaning staff member badly:
Mano tu provocaste esta situação, trataste mal a funcionária auxiliar de limpeza, os seguranças apareceram em função da informação dada pela Sra. Penso que a pergunta que lhe foi feita pela Sra era normal.

Buddy you provoked this situation, you treated the cleaning staff member badly, the security staff came on the basis of the information given by this lady. I think that the question the lady asked you was normal

Meanwhile, André Mfumu Kivuandinga, an internet user who followed the event, encouraged Hossi to take the case as far as possible:
Mano tens que ir mesmo adiante com isso. Não se pode tolerar injustiças ou discriminações. Estou consigo, se precisar de minha ajuda, sabes onde me localizar. Aliás, posso fazer um trabalho sobre isso.

Buddy you have to go further with this. You cannot tolerate injustice or discrimination. I am with you, if you need my help, you know where to find me. For that matter, I can do some work on this

Presenter Salgueiro Vincente jumped to Hossi's defense,using Facebook to organize a protest near the restaurant, as well as debates, songs, and poetry.

Action taken in support of the activist and journalist Hossi Sonjamba | Photo used with permission

In response to Vincente's call to protest, Elísio dos Santos Magalhães highlighted the need for a country united against racism:

Estamos todos ligados nesta causa o racismo divisionismo, tribalismo, perconceito racial basts chega, chega, chega, chega Angola sem racismo todos somos um só! E muitos felizes ,chega de perconceito de cor da pele chega, um dia eu ja sofri isto ando muito magoado pelo os meus ex sogros e depois de vinte anos tiraram-me a mulher por eu ser mistiço abaixo o racismo nas familias ja destruiram muitas familias em Angola chega chega basta…

We are all linked in this cause, divisive racism, tribalism, racial prejudice, enough, enough, enough, enough, enough, Angola without racism, we are all one! And very happy, enough of prejudice about skin colour enough, one day I already suffered this I am very hurt by my former parents-in-law and after twenty years they took away my wife because I am mestizo, due to racism in families, families are destroyed in Angola, enough enough enough

On 9 September, the day of event, demonstrators shared photos of the protest in front of the restaurant:

Concentração de fronte ao restaurante | Foto usada com permissão - Hossi Sonjamba (09.08.2018)

Demonstration in front of the restaurant | Photo used with permission – Hossi Sonjamba (09.09.2018)

Concentração de fronte ao restaurante | Foto usada com permissão - Hossi Sonjamba (09.08.2018)

Demonstration in front of the restaurant | Photo used with permission – Hossi Sonjamba (09.09.2018)

According to Hossi’s online posts, the case is still being investigated by Angolan authorities.

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