Giving Indians a voice

2008-08-13 00:00

People do care about their future in South Africa. In the past week the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) has been busier than ever in the Indian community. Several regional meetings with activists have been held and a final meeting was held at the Durban City Hall to wrap up the views of Indians within the party.

The party was galvanised into action after the Eastern Express newspaper highlighted the plight of Indians within the ANC. Some may disagree and say that the meetings were planned before the newspaper raised the issue, but that does not matter. The important fact is that the issue of the marginalisation of Indians has been placed at the top of the ANC agenda in KwaZulu-Natal.

At almost all meetings from which I have received feedback, Indian activists have made it clear that they’ve had enough of the roughshod treatment they have been receiving.

Some delegates have voiced their fears of speaking out against corruption lest they are isolated.

Sitting councillors have come out of the closet to complain about intimidation within ANC structures, complaining that the party has never before experienced such thuggish behaviour.

Activists complained bitterly about corruption in the eThekwini Municipality, jobs for pals, contracts for collaborators of the apartheid regime, bribery, non-delivery, housing scandals — the list went on and on.

Even if half of what activists complained about is true, it is time for the ANC to pay attention.

It is fantastic that finally this matter has been aired openly and in a transparent manner, with the head and deputy head of the ruling party in KZN attending the city hall meeting.

Party provincial chairman Zweli Mkhize and Willies Mchunu, his deputy, promised the activists action. They listened attentively and activists spoke from the heart.

Never again must we allow ourselves to be silenced, whether it is politically, socially or economically.

We must stop anyone in his or her tracks who dares to treat us as second-class citizens or makes derogatory remarks about our community. No one has the right and we must tell them so. We must be proud of who we are and of our rich political past. Our community has made a lasting contribution in this country and it is a tradition that we must continue.

The Smuts government treated Indians as third-class citizens and the National Party continued this abomination from 1948 to 1993.

When South Africa was freed, we were part of that freedom. We were unshackled and we celebrated. The Mandela government embraced us and we embraced the change.

I am a South African and I am proud of it, but I am not ashamed to be an Indian. I am proud of my culture and my

history and I don’t for one moment begrudge or envy anyone their right to feel proud of their heritage.

I have received many messages of support for a broad Indian front to tackle the problems facing our community and the first planning committee meeting has been held.

Our next meeting is on August 23 at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead, in Old Fort Road, in Durban, which will accommodate 300 delegates. At this meeting we will explore the different avenues available to our community to make our collective voices heard on a political and social level.

If you represent any organisation or you personally feel that you can contribute in any way whatsoever to the process, please attend the meeting.

This is an opportunity for all of us to stop being armchair critics and make a difference by making our voices heard.

Let us use this opportunity to translate our gripes, disappointments and failures into successes for the future.

As the publisher of Eastern Express, I am sponsoring this symposium as I believe that we need to articulate our views in an organised and structured manner.

It is time for the man or woman in the street to realise that he or she has the power to make a difference; to realise his or her dreams; to realise that he or she is important and to be led by people of integrity and honesty who don’t put their fingers in the cookie jar of corruption.

We need strong dedicated leaders, such as the ones we had in the recent past, who, without any payment, put their lives at risk for the freedom and improvement of all South Africans.

More than ever before, our country needs decisive leadership.

Everyone can make a difference by showing an interest. I look forward to seeing you at the meeting.

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