Cape Town - Open for less than three weeks, the Haarlem & Hope restaurant in the Company’s Garden has changed its name to The Company’s Garden Restaurant after “certain members of the community” complained that it was a “callous celebration of colonial power”.
Social activist Zackie Achmat took to social media to slam the Madame Zingara group on Facebook for naming their latest establishment after a Dutch ship that brought slaves to the Cape to work in the Company’s Garden and to build the Castle.
“I wish to register my anger and outrage against this unthinking, callous celebration of colonial power. The indigenous Khoi and San people faced genocide. Colonialism is part of our history. We can’t turn the clock back. But many white people’s failure to acknowledge the pain and injustice of colonialism, apartheid and capitalism angers me not simply because it is wrong, but because they are preparing the seeds of increased social violence.”
He said his family were brought to Cape Town from Mozambique, Malaysia and Indonesia as slaves to work in the Cape.
Achmat later tweeted: “Any response? Why I am going to boycott @Madame_Zingara chain. Promoting racist colonialism…”
The Madame Zingara group responded within hours with the statement: “The name is not important to us. It holds no significance in our vision for the space and if it excludes in any way, then we are prepared to change it.”
The group said it would try its best to make the change as quickly as possible, but added that “as the name has been spread widely, it may not happen overnight”.
Madame Zingara refused to comment on the cost implications of changing the name.
“We have invested a huge amount of energy, as well as funding, into improving the gardens and from the outset we wanted it to be an inclusive venue for all to enjoy.”
The popular tearoom in the historic Company’s Garden has been revamped after the City of Cape Town terminated the former tenant’s lease as part of its overall refurbishment plan for the area.
“The only reason we tendered for the restaurant in the first place was to do good and create a positive environment. We are not here to celebrate the past, we are in this businesses as we are invested in the future - education, skills development and sustainability are the things that matter to use,” said Madame Zingara.
According to the Haarlem & Hope website, the name refers to the Dutch ship, the Nieuwe Haarlem, that was shipwrecked in Table Bay in 1647. The captain commanded a junior merchant and a crew of about 60 to stay with the ship while the rest of the fleet continued to Holland. They planted the first seeds at the Cape.
Jan Van Riebeeck was on board the ship that collected them a year later. He returned five years later to set up a refreshment station which became the Company’s Garden.
Achmat could not be reached for comment on Monday, but responded with a simple “Thank you” when Madame Zingara Tweeted: “…intention was never to offend – #HaarlemandHope …no longer.”