Farrell to Ask Council to Condemn Hotel for South Africa Business : Apartheid: Motion also will ask elected officials to stop patronizing the Century Plaza. Trade show is scheduled there next month.
Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell will call on his colleagues to condemn the Century Plaza Hotel for allowing South Africa’s tourism board and largest airline to hold a trade show there next month and will ask elected officials to stop patronizing the hotel in protest, officials said Thursday.
Farrell plans to introduce the motion today, less than three weeks before South African Airways and the South African Tourism Board are scheduled to hold a cocktail reception and trade show Sept. 18 at the Century City hotel, said Farrell’s spokeswoman, Marcela Howell. A private South African tourism company, Game Trackers, will be the host of a reception there the following day, according to South African tourism officials.
Howell, quoting officials in the city’s Chief Legislative Analyst’s office, said it is believed that if Farrell’s motion is approved, it would mark the first time the city has condemned a private enterprise it does not conduct official business with for its dealings with the South African government.
“We want to condemn the Century Plaza Hotel (and encourage it) as an entity in the city of Los Angeles to live up to, if not the law, the spirit of the anti-apartheid ordinance,” said Howell, referring to the local law banning city contracts of primarily $25,000 or less with firms that do business with South Africa. “Since the tourism board is a government entity, this means that the Century Plaza Hotel is doing business with the government of South Africa.”
Farrell’s motion also will ask council members, other local elected officials and community organizations to stop doing business with the hotel in protest, said Howell, who added that “a lot of the council members and elected officials up and down the state do their fund raising at the hotel.”
Katie Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Century Plaza Hotel, acknowledged that the trade show is scheduled.
“We attract a lot of controversial business,” she said. “When President Bush was here we had protesters outside . . . It’s purely a business decision. We don’t necessarily support the feelings of any of the groups we have here.”
Nico Steyn, western United States manager for the South African Tourism Board, said he was surprised and saddened to hear of the councilman’s proposed action, and said that the trade show is an effort to increase understanding between the people of South Africa and the United States.
“We’re dealing in the issue of tourism, not politics,” said Steyn, saying that most of the people employed by South Africa’s tourism industry are black. “It’s very easy to sit in Los Angeles and postulate on what goes on in South Africa. . . . We’re trying to build bridges between the United States and South Africa in that the better people understand a country, the better grasp they have on what goes on in that country.
“People in public office often use South Africa as a ball to play around with to get more votes,” he added. “I wonder if the councilman has ever been to South Africa?”
Farrell learned of the trade show from The Friends of the ANC and Front Line States, an umbrella group for various community and anti-apartheid organizations which plans to picket the hotel if the promotional events are not called off.
“Farrell’s resolution is an initial step,” said community organizer Michael Zinzun. “We are prepared to take this campaign to the maximum. Not only are we talking about picketing but we will encourage groups to boycott the Century Plaza Hotel.”