Charity accuses luxury Bloem 'squatter camp' of spitting in the faces of the poor
An international charity organisation has accused a five-star Bloemfontein game resort of spitting in the faces of the poor with its R850-a-night "experience" in a fake squatter camp.
The UK-based Winnie Mabaso Foundation, which works with impoverished children in South Africa, this week joined a growing chorus of international disdain against Emoya Luxury Hotel and Spa in Bloemfontein, which has been luring wealthy guests with the promise of an "experience of a lifetime".
The hotel's owner, Buks Westraad, said that like other South African entrepreneurs in tourism he was trying to "to make something positive from a negative perception".
"We wanted to create an environment where, hopefully, our guests could imagine themselves living in even worse circumstances surrounded by crime and poverty ... and create sympathy and support to fight poverty and create jobs," he said.
Emoya also received a dressing down from American political satirist Stephen Colbert, who accused it of "commodifying poverty" on his TV show..
The shanty town accommodates 52 guests in its 13 corrugated iron-lined "shacks" which have underfloor heating and wireless internet access.
The shacks, which sleep four people, are equipped with electricity, a bathroom with a shower, television and fridge.
Outside each shanty is a "long-drop-effect toilet" - a normal flush toilet made to look like a long drop or pit toilet.
On its website, Emoya describes the shanty town as "an experience of a lifetime". It calls on guests to "experience staying in a shanty within the safe environment of a game reserve".
Lisa Ashton, who founded the UK-based foundation with late Johannesburg charity worker Winnie Mabaso, lambasted Emoya for the "obscene experience" it offers. She made the accusation in an open letter this week on social networks.
"This makes a total mockery of those living in utter poverty.
"Surely the best place to experience what it is like to live in a township is to visit the people who live in townships, to talk to them, make friends and hear first-hand their extraordinary stories," said Ashton.
She was "shocked and saddened that it had even occurred to Emoya to create such an obscene experience".
Wilson Ntantiso, an Emoya employee, said he did not believe the resort was making fun of people living in townships.
"We aren't mocking people. It's a nice idea. I like it," he said.
However, in a township south of Bloemfontein, the residents were unaware of the shanty town.
"No, I don't know the place. I don't care. They don't know how much I struggle," said Nomboniso Rodolo, an unemployed single mother of two who lives in a corrugated-iron shack.