We need a kind of TRC process on inter-racial relations in South Africa

2014-08-31 15:00

At a recent large social gathering the question that was posed to me was whether or not the struggle of "Safrindians" ( South Africans of Indian heritage or extraction) against colonialism and apartheid was worth it.

My response is not important but I shall refer to it in due course in this debate, if needs be, that a Sunday newspaper has initiated as headlined " African-Indian race boiler" (Sunday Tribune 31.8.2014) and for which I must applaud the editor for having the courage to do so.

Its long overdue and I hope it is a sustainable one that does not fizzle out to other distractions such as Nkandla or the Public Protector.

In a well balanced article in the "Big Issue" section, two writers ,namely Imraan Bacus and Sandile Ngidi , each make a presentation that is healthy and informative as well as instructive and which should be replicated via daily newspapers as well as through online forums such as News24.com for the purposes of engaging a wider debate and discussion.

Incidentally,apart from Indian nationals, holding passports of the Republic of India ,who are here in SA either on a residence permit or as economic migrants, those born in SA should be referred to as South Africans, as we are part of the population of South Africa and not according to the ethnic/racist nomenclature "Indians".

The social electronic and printed media, with its capacity as a change agent and its awesome reach , needs to contribute to what is referred as as "social cohesion".

So the "Indian" label itself needs to be dropped from the narrative in favour of one that embraces the ideal of a nation knitted by the mosaic of diversity that informs it.

This 'Indian' tag dredges up a painful history of oppression and alienation of early indentured labourers who elected to make SA their permanent home whilst maintaining cultural and religious affinity with their motherland.

It was because those who made SA their home challenged the political and economic hegemony that was hitherto firmly in the grasp of white colonialists who later succumbed to a racist creed that made apartheid its official mantra that much of what became ingrained in the minds of indigenous Africans and, yes whites is replicated in our daily narratives as lobby groups jockey for influence and power.

It also reinforces efforts that the colonialists deliberately deployed to demonise them and which precipitated the 1949 riots in places like Cato Manor against Indians.Even the apartheid government tried by co-option to galvanise "Indians" to perpetuate a racist creed that produced the three ringed circus referred to as the Tricameral parliament.

These futile efforts to rid the country of a hard working and ethically strong minority are well documented.

It is that connection that the rabidly racist Mazibuye African Forum exploited and which is the common thread in its anti-Indian narrative. Recent efforts to engage this group proved futile.

It is that self same mindset that is adding a toxic cocktail through plays and songs and, yes newspaper editorials.

Considering their minority status vi-a-vis indigenous Africans , South Africans of Indian heritage or "SAfrindians", a nomenclature that I have adopted for the sake of expediency in this debate often punched above their weight in their contribution to the freedom struggle,a fact that the likes of Mandela acknowledged. Historical records attest to this abundantly as well as eloquently.

Dare we forget the historical narrative associated with the "Three Doctors Pact" which saw "Indians" and Africans join forces to take on the apartheid behemoth.

Such historical amnesiacs in the Mazibuye African Forum and other opportunists only serve to spread their bile and their poison to latter uninformed generations in these challenging economic and political times celebrated by wholesale pillaging and plunder of the fiscus, for their own evil purposes.

Yes, we are building " a new country" as Sandile Ngidi posits in the article I have cited and we need, as I have consistently being arguing , in this newspaper and elsewhere for a 'kind of truth and reconciliation commission' that he argues for but I disagree that it should be on narrowly confined to "Indian-African relations".

Rather a TRC type process involving and engaging every segment of our diversity is the way to start the process of healing a wounded nation festering under deep rooted "bitter truths" that refuse to and will not go away. I am all in favour for a TRC type process.

I sincerely pray that people reading this take up the challenge and engage in a robust exercise in the drive towards truth and reconciliation.

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