By Hakeem Babalola
A coffee bar named Megálló Prezzó is still not serving non-whites even after a controversial report was published about the racial policy of the management.
This development has cast doubt on whether the Hungarian government actually holds the power to compel pub and bar owners to shun discrimination as they attend to the public.
Megálló Prezzó, situated at Rákoczi ut 52 in down town Budapest, is known for its discriminatory policy towards blacks.
Although the waitresses often try as much as to avoid saying directly to their targets to get out; we don’t serve blacks here, their body language usually let out the cat out of the bag.
The investigation carried out by African News Hungary revealed that the waitresses often find excuses as soon as a black man walks in. They may look at each other’s eyes, or they may pull their hair and then look down. In some cases they may say they don’t speak English. However if the person speaks Hungarian, then other excuses quickly surface.
It may be that there is the need to wait for ten minutes – which often turns endlessly –because “waitresses are taking over from each other”. Or they may come together; mumble some inaudible words to each other – all in an inauspicious manner to tell the “unwanted” customer to get out.
Meanwhile, such implausible excuses often take place while the white customers are being served or attended to.
According to African News Hungary finding, discrimination towards black guests is not as pronounced at another beer garden called Blaha Sörözö as alleged, which allows maximum of five black customers per night.
”It is troubling to know that this kind of thing is happening in Hungary in this era of globalization,” said Johnston Mboni who said he was refused entry many times.
Although the Hungarian Constitution specifically outlaws any form of discrimination in private enterprises open to the public, the history of fencing off blacks – especially Africans – at nightclubs is appalling.
Discrimination at nightclubs is not a new complaint heard at Cit Hall. “But I can’t imagine a situation like this,” said András Keztheyi, former press secretary to the Mayor of Budapest.
In 1995, the then Hully Gully nightclub prevented Africans from entering as it often becomes a “private club” to discourage certain patrons. The club was later closed down only to reincarnate in the year 2002 in form of Rio, a summer garden rendezvous, which refused entry to blacks simply because, according to the management, the law enforcement officials were looking for three dark skin people. Government officials maintain that it’s wrong and that the government takes a political stand against racism and intolerance.
Like other places in the region, there are different associations which claimed to combat racism in Hungary. The founder of Music Against Racism, Lorincz Marcell, said that racism is a social problem and that it’s not new “but we must act against it”.
In March last year, Menedék Association for Migrants started a project against xenophobia, a welcome development among immigrants. It distributed flyers to bars, pubs, shops and clubs frequented by foreigners for awareness. There is Ebony Organisation which uses social and cultural activities to fight discrimination; while Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Movement chooses football to fight unfair treatment in this Danube region.
On December 18, Far From Home Foundation, a new NGO founded to accelerate the integration of immigrants into the Hungarian society, celebrated the International Migrants Day with a Multicultural Evening. And the list goes on.
Meanwhile, the question many Africans who have experienced such discrimination often ask is whether the activities of these NGOs are enough to curb and, or sanction places like Megálló Bar. “I don’t think so,” declared Sillas. “I don’t even believe in this integration propaganda. It’s all talk talk without action”.