Like a kung-fu movie

2013-05-29 00:00

I READ with sadness in the City Press last Sunday about how commentator Phumlani Mfeka defended the traffic officer “who innocently mistook” Newcastle mayor Afzul Rehman for one of the Gupta brothers.

Rehman wanted the officer fired for racial prejudice, after the two met in the corridors of the town hall and the officer threw in the slur he must have had up his sleeve to use on the first person of Indian origin he encountered.

The traffic officer would surely not take pleasure in being called by the name of the worst black African scoundrel, and he should therefore, at the very least, treat others as he would like to be treated.

Mfeka’s defence that it was “innocent” is cheap. It was prejudice at its worst.

Not having access to the traffic officer, at best his mitigation might be that it was foolishness rather than bigotry.

It is not uncommon to attribute to bigotry what is entirely foolishness. Then again, ignorance cannot always be an excuse for bigotry.

Mfeka, on the other hand, is not uncertain about what he thinks of Indians in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Africans in this province [KwaZulu-Natal] 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.”

Mfeka might think he is advancing the cause of blacks in their struggles against Indians, but, in truth, he is proof of the success of the divide-and-rule programme that apartheid designed to keep the oppressed from thinking they were superior, and that they needed to be antagonistic towards each other.

Believing in an eye-for-an-eye justice, he thinks his people can be saved from prejudice and injustice by throwing back injustice and bigotry.

He mistakenly thinks it is a revolutionary duty to defend those who look like you, especially if they have been victims of historic wrongs.

Racial hostilities will take a people nowhere.

Needless to say, there have been pockets of individuals who have thought themselves superior, either because they were Indian or because they were educated, but on the whole, Indians and Africans are both historic victims of a race-based political order that they want to perpetuate between themselves.

Like in a kung-fu movie, new generations of Indians and Africans keep fighting a war, the origins of which they know nothing of, despite having access to the best South Africa has to offer.

KZN, more than any other province, has an Indian population that reflects the best and the worst South Africa has to offer in terms of opportunities, making it a mockery to talk of Indians as a monolithic group.

The Newcastle affair provides that town and the province with an opportunity for dialogue, self-reflection and to correct the undeniable prejudice between the two communities.

As always, leaders must think out of the box and have the courage to take their people where they need to go but are reluctant to do so.

Any takers?

• Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is a freelance journalist and former editor of The Witness.

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