By Nosipho Mngoma
A KwaZulu-Natal minority rights group is looking to open a third case against EFF leader Julius Malema for claiming that the majority of Indians are racist. Malema was speaking at his party’s Youth Day commemorations in Klerksdorp in the North West Province at the weekend.
“(The) majority of Indians hate Africans, (the) majority of Indians are racist, and we must never be scared to say that they are racist.
“I’m not saying all Indians, I’m saying the majority of them,” he said.
Daleep Lutchman, chairperson of the South African Minority Rights Equality Movement (Samrem) said they would meet to decide what charges to press against Malema for “going back to the apartheid system of classifying people by race”.
In his speech, Malema said there was a hierarchy in apartheid. “We were not oppressed the same. Our oppression was worse than the oppression of the Indians,” he said, suggesting South Africans of Indian descent be given a lower BEE score.
Malema also said while Indians did not create inequalities, they looked down on Africans.
“When you speak against them, they organise some Indian mob to attack us and expect us to keep quiet until we speak about that reality, they will never change.”
Malema hit out at Indians for identifying more with white people, saying this explained why they voted for the DA.
“If there are Indians who are going to catch feelings about this statement, it is your own baby”
However, Lutchman believes Indians also suffered under apartheid as the land given to them was not arable.
“We fished instead and sold the fish back to the white man. Indians grew their own wealth and worked hard using their own initiative, not handouts.”
Samrem had two cases pending against Malema, both relating to his utterances at the EFF’s fourth anniversary celebrations in Durban a year ago. “He made very divisive statements about Indians mono- polising the economy, underpaying workers and being worse than Afrikaners,” said Lutchman.
The organisation locked horns with Malema in 2011 after he referred to Indians as c***lies. He had met with them, apologised for his ignorance at the word being derogatory and Samrem dropped the charges.
“We thought he was sincere but he continued to make bold, sweeping statements about us with no evidence, proof or statistics. We could do the same but we don’t,” said Lutchman.
Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the Hindu Maha Sabha, agreed that there was a need for dialogue but chastised Malema for his lack of education on the history of Indians in South Africa.
“Indians are a minority but their involvement in the Struggle against apartheid far outweighs any other race proportionally.”
Trikamjee believes there are some Indian people who are racist, but said this was true of many individuals of other races, including Africans.
“Racism is one of the serious consequences of apartheid. But having conversations on the basis of hatred won’t help this country,” he said.
EFF leaders on Sunday shared articles where anti-apartheid activist and former Justice of the Constitutional Court Zac Yacoob said he believed Indians were racist.
Attempts to contact Justice Yacoob were unsuccessful on Sunday.
Phumlani Mfeka of the Injenje yamaNguni, an organisation aimed at preserving the dignity of the Nguni people, agreed with Malema.
“His comment is true and I have expressed the same thing a number of times.
“Here in KwaZulu-Natal we have a special case because of the concentration of Indians, which cannot be compared to anywhere else in South Africa.”
Mfeka said he was particularly bothered by the exploitation and physical harassment of black employees by Indian employers as well as the flouting of labour laws.
But the Minority Front’s Shameen Thakur Rajbansi said it was the DA’s fear-mongering that had won them Indian votes.
She lambasted Malema for making populist statements which were not backed up by any research or understanding of history and the contribution of Indian people in South Africa.
“He is clueless but indulges in populist statements to make people buy into his form of radicalism,” she said.
Michael Morris, head of media at the Institute of Race Relations, said one of the greatest threats to South Africa’s social fabric was demeaning statements of the kind made by Malema about Indian people.
“These statements appear to be intended to sow division, resentment and fear. Even if that was not Malema’s intention, this is the effect his comments will have.”
He said that “exploiting race in this way, as our apartheid experience showed, is reactionary and unwelcome, and comes at a high cost”.
Morris believes there is a tendency to let Malema off far too lightly for his constant use of race to stir up antagonism.
Malema’s racist rant comes after his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, slammed the presence in Parliament of Treasury deputy-director Ismail Momoniat instead of his boss, Dondo Mogajane.
Speaking at a meeting of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance last week, Shivambu questioned whether this was perhaps a deliberate attempt to undermine African leadership.