City Press Debate – Are we strangers in a strange land?

2013-05-26 14:00

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Mayor of Newcastle is on thin ground if he wants to grandstand, writes Phumlani Mfeka.

Dear Afzul,

As an indigenous African of this province informed by the Zulu idiom that ?says, “Akukho zinyane lemvubu ladliwa yingwenya kwacweba isiziba” – whose meaning I would expect you to know since you have been residing in a province that is predominantly Zulu – I penned this letter to you in the interests of educating, liberating and giving you a free, but stern, warning not to grandstand against an African person in the way you did to the traffic official who innocently mistook you for one of the Gupta brothers.

Such an action is certain to attract severe African contempt.

First and foremost, you are an Indian and, contrary to what you believe and what you perhaps have been taught, South Africa is an African country with its land in its totality and proportion rightfully belonging to its indigenous African people.

In KwaZulu, with the dawn of British colonisation and imperialism, we saw the indigenous African people dispossessed of their land, livestock and fishing industries through the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Indians in this province have been unequivocally racist towards Africans from the time they were brought here by the British.

Upon the Indians’ arrival, they fought alongside the British at the Battle of Isandlwana against our African ancestors.

Your hero, Mahatma Gandhi, once again rallied Indians to fight alongside the British in the Zulu Rebellion led by Nkosi Bambatha kaMancinza, where more than 7?000 African warriors fought and bled for this land.

Indians were treated as second-class citizens to the British, but at the African people’s expense.

They remained proud British subjects.

In 1949, Indians, with the support of the apartheid regime, attacked the African people and history will advise you of the casualties Indians suffered, regardless of their Boer support.

Now, in reading an article titled “Newcastle mayor lays complaint after ‘Gupta’ slur” (City Press, May 8), I was rather perplexed to read that an innocent case of mistaken identity is now being used in a senseless, vicious campaign to ensure a poor African traffic official loses his job, letting his family go hungry, merely because of your overarching arrogance and bruised sense of pomposity.

Who do you think you are, asking an African whether he knows who you are in his native land?

Indians have never been comrades.

They don’t vote for the ANC and thus have no constituency that can warrant you to be mayor in the first place.

Your ignorance, second only to your arrogance, robbed you of an opportunity to realise that although you are mayor, the ordinary people you are supposed to be serving cannot even recognise you, which is indicative of how completely divorced from the people you are and how they are not your priority.

You also missed an opportunity to realise that Africans in this province do not regard Indians as their brethren and thus the ticking time bomb of a deadly confrontation between the two communities is inevitable and shall be exacerbated by the antagonistic attitude that Indians such as yourself and Vivian Reddy have.

The traffic official was absolutely correct in reminding you that India is your home, and you should perhaps begin to embrace India as your home as we Africans embrace South Africa as our home, which we are more than willing to fight and die for.

What further fuels my disgust at the manner in which you chose to handle this minor issue is that, even in the wake of the traffic official expressing remorse and being willing to apologise, you further didn’t see an opportunity to promote unity and social cohesion by reconciling and being above pettiness.

You have completely failed to take this opportunity to be a leader and demonstrate that, indeed, you are a selfless individual who is committed to the unity of the people of Newcastle.

Now if you choose to further pursue this issue in the manner in which you have threatened, I would like to advise you to do so cognisant of the fact that we as Africans see these shenanigans of yours and have made a note.

Your attitude reminds us of the very same attitude that the super-racist Gandhi had towards Africans. His existence, as with that of many other Indians of the Indian Congress, in itself was an offence to Africans.


Phumlani Mfeka

Bigotry and hate against any group of people can never be defended, writes Kay Sexwale.

Dear Phumlani,

Let me start by acknowledging your anger at the racial dynamics and historical incidence of prejudice, hatred and racism black South Africans have had to endure at the hands of some people of Indian/Asian descent.

That said, your utterances are bigoted and belong in the same fringe parts of society we need to do away with, currently reserved for Solidarity and the dwellers of Orania and Kleinfontein.

The sad legacy of apartheid is people like you who, instead of embracing nonracialism and building a better South Africa for all, have sharpened their claws and, together with a handful of buddies, are using opportunities offered by current affairs and our divisive media to spread hatred towards a previously disadvantaged group of our citizens who have historical roots in Asia.

The attention given to Newcastle Mayor Afzul Rehman laying charges of crimen injuria against a transport department official has drawn bigots like yourself to spew inaccurate and sensationalised distractions from core issues.

When City Press invited me to respond to your diatribe I agreed after remembering recent social media rants attributed to you. Your telling ANC KwaZulu-Natal secretary Sihle Zikalala to not attempt to engage you with a samoosa in his mouth exposed your senseless hatred.

On Twitter, seasoned black consciousness activists who loathe South Africa’s inequalities, like Andile Mngxitama, have warned you against this dangerous path you are on, cautioning you to not be a modern Kaiser Matanzima and a prisoner of history.

As with the DA’s recent revamp of the past, I can only assume Mngxitama meant selective history, seeing as he accuses you of employing narrow nationalism and being a tribalist.

I’d take it a step further, to compare you to Idi Amin of Uganda, who ordered the expulsion of that country’s Indian and Pakistani minorities in 1972.

Seeing as you like to dwell on the past so much, let me take this opportunity to remind you of a historic document that informs the spirit of our Constitution, the Freedom Charter, albeit authored in 1955, long after the Battle of Isandlwana.

This was an idealistic document to counter the oppressive nature of the unjust system of apartheid, a system that promoted a hierarchy of oppression that placed Indians and so-called coloureds in positions above black South Africans.

The architects of apartheid would applaud you, Phumlani, for being an agent of furthering their divisiveness.

The charter was a statement of the core principles of the SA Congress Alliance, which consisted of the ANC and its allies, including the SA Indian Congress.

Let me also refer you to the 1947 Joint Declaration of Cooperation known as Three Doctors’ Pact, which was signed by Dr AB Xuma, then ANC president, Dr GM Naicker, president of the Natal Indian Congress, and Dr YM Dadoo of the Transvaal Indian Congress.

Today, the pact is seen as an epochal agreement that played a key role in the struggle.

How dare you suggest to an elected mayor how South Africans of Indian descent vote?

Voting is a hard-earned right all South Africans have and are free to exercise as they see fit.

Are you challenging councillor Rehman’s eligibility to be mayor in a nonracial society in 2013, as a representative of a nonracial party, because he has taken issue with being lumped with Johnny-come-lately name-droppers?

The charter’s preamble states South Africa belongs to all who live in it and no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.

The people of Newcastle have spoken, Phumlani.

Your Indophobia is concerning and misplaced. Ever since the Guptas brazenly landed their plane at Waterkloof, South Africa has been united in our disgust at their illegal sense of entitlement.

The highest structures of government have blundered badly in their handling of the matter and minions are taking the fall.

Interestingly though, you name-drop worse than the Guptas.

If your profile is anything to go by, your connections range from two former first ladies of the US and South Africa, and everyone who is anyone in the higher circles of South African business and politics.

I checked with a few of these names you dropped and they all denied knowing you.

The Guptas have helped your sideshow, I get that, but dare I say you and that family are a threat to nonracialism in our young democracy, and the thinking public will not stand by and watch silently.


Kay Sexwale

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