Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa was voted No.3 hotel in Africa in the Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Award 2008 Supplied to Verve, The Star, for travel article in April 2009.

Cape Town - The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Camps Bay has denied race had anything to do with a family’s unpleasant experience at the upmarket restaurant, saying an “administrative error” was to blame.

It’s been almost two weeks since Tumi Mpofu dined at The Twelve Apostles where she claimed she and her family were belittled by the staff because they were black.

“It’s not about me being an unhappy customer, it’s about me being a hurt human being,” she said over the phone on Monday.

The hotel management said complications with the family’s booking were down to an administrative error, categorically denying any racist treatment. But she isn’t happy with this explanation.

“No… the treatment we received was just bad, we were made to feel like we were not meant to be in that space, that is not human error.”

On December 27, Mpofu’s husband travelled from KwaZulu-Natal and she wanted to do something nice.

“I called Twelve Apostles and booked a table for six. Everything was going well until I told them my name and then suddenly there wasn’t a table available for me.”

That’s when she roped in Martina Dahlmanns, her “white friend”, to make the same booking but under her own name.

“When she did it there wasn’t an issue.

“I felt appalled, I felt like I didn’t even want to go. But part of me was thinking, what if I’m wrong? What if it was just a misunderstanding?”

However, when Mpofu, 28, and her family arrived, it was clear she had been right, she said. There was no record of the booking.

“They were condescending with me… When we argued with them, they told us to lower our voices because there were other guests eating.”

She decided to get Dahlmanns on the phone again to speak to the restaurant staff. Immediately the tone changed to one of gentleness and understanding.

They were offered a table inside the private dining room, but Mpofu felt they were being placed out of sight of the other diners, who “were all white”. Eventually they were given a table in the restaurant.

“But we felt like we weren’t wanted.”

She said management at the hotel had since invited her back for a proper experience.

The hotel has denied any racist treatment and blamed any complications on an administrative error. In a press statement, the hotel said the festive season was a busy period when many bookings were made for hotel rooms, the restaurant and the spa.

“As is the case in many leading hotels and restaurants across the world, challenges occur when bookings aren’t confirmed, there are last minute cancellations, unscheduled, or bookings made in error,” wrote general manager Michael Nel.

“Still, when such problems occur, the staff of The Twelve Apostles go out of their way to find a solution to ensure guest satisfaction.”

When it was clear Mpofu’s booking had not been recorded, the plan was to open up the private dining room, said Nel.

“The guests declined this offer, preferring to remain in the restaurant for dinner. At that point we received a cancellation… and the assistant manager managed to accommodate the party of six on this now vacant table, where they then stayed for dinner.”

Nel wrote: “We must categorically state that The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, and the owners who are proud South African themselves, have zero tolerance when it comes to prejudice of any kind, be it racism or any other form of discrimination.”

[email protected]

Cape Argus