Durban - Two high-level task teams have been appointed by KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu to investigate the seemingly souring relationship between blacks and Indians in the province.
The first team – a three-man team led by Transport MEC Willies Mchunu – would look into the claims made by pressure group Mazibuye African Forum.
The group has hogged the headlines recently owing to its radical anti-Indian comments. Members of the group have been advocating for Indians to lose their BEE status while also claiming Indian business owners are responsible for the exploitation of black workers.
Mchunu said the decision to form a team had been taken at a meeting of the provincial executive ysterday and that MECs for human settlements and health, Ravi Pillay and Sibongiseni Dhlomo were also part of the team.
The team’s work would be to engage Mazibuye and those who had been at the receiving end of their verbal attacks.
But Mchunu warned that any diatribe against Indians would not be tolerated.
“I do not believe that all of a sudden Indians are super-exploiters. Let’s discuss exploitation without targeting.”
He said any of the issues raised could be debated without resorting to threats and violence.
A second team – comprising Finance MEC Ina Cronje and Economic Development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu – had also been appointed to look into the issue of tenders. This comes after concerns were raised that Indians had received the lion’s share of tenders awarded by government in the province.
Mchunu said this team would analyse tenders awarded since 2004 so that it could engage those who had been making these allegations.
Both teams were expected to start work next week and report to the provincial executive (provincial cabinet) in two weeks’ time.
Zweli Mnisi, the founding member of Mazibuye African Forum, did not understand “why the government has to investigate something so glaring? Even past ANC leaders have raised the issue we are raising now, these issues have been there before. I don’t see any reason why we should be surprised.
“Yes, I can agree that there are black people who might be exploiting their workers, but the truth is that blacks generally are not employers and therefore it is not rife, as it is with Indian bosses.”
He said his organisation welcomed the intervention, but warned that this in no way meant he and fellow Mazibuye members would tone down their anti-Indian rhetoric.
“The government has its own programmes and we have our own,” he said.
Ashin Singh, of the South African Minority Rights Equality Movement (Samrem), said he believed any dialogue was good as it could help expose the dishonesty and racism on the part of Mazibuye.
Singh dismissed as absolute rubbish the claims that Indians had benefited the most from tenders and that they owned the lion’s share of agricultural land in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Most of the Indian business people are small traders; Indians have been trading since they arrived here from India in 1860,” Singh said.
Thobekani Mkhize, pres-ident of Imbumba Economic Empowerment Group, welcomed the interventions by the government, but said urgent action was needed.
He said his organisation did not want to racialise the issue of empowerment.
“All we are saying is that those who are educated should look at the demographics and at who is getting the biggest (slice of the tender pie).”