Indian outrage over racist jibes
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Retired judge Thumba Pillay yesterday led the barrage of protest against this week’s racist attacks on Indians, with Julius Malema again in the eye of the storm.
ANC Youth League president Malema was forced to apologise to the Indian community after he told residents of a township in Lenasia, an Indian suburb south of Johannesburg: “Your children must be allowed to go to school with amakula (‘coolie’) children.”
The anti-Indian fires were stoked on the same day by Judge Isaac Madondo, who said during Judicial Service Commission interviews of three candidates for the hotly-contested position of KwaZulu-Natal judge president - with Justice Chiman Patel a leading contender - that the job should not go to an Indian because “… we still have things to address: imbalances, all kinds of things which need more insight, which a person who is not (a black) African cannot be privy to”.
“We were oppressed, but not in the same way,” he added, and backed his comment by saying Indian lawyers were given more opportunities historically than their black counterparts.
An outraged Pillay said Malema’s derogatory and insulting reference to the Indian community was shocking at this time in the history of our country.
“Excuses and justification for his distasteful behaviour are becoming tiresome and unconvincing. What is most surprising is that there is an almost deafening silence from the high profile leadership within the Indian community; those who enjoy the confidence of, and pay homage to, the ruling party.”
On former colleague Madondo, Pillay pulled no punches. “The statement attributed to him shows his ignorance of the history of the Indian South Africans, both in terms of their suffering from the time of indenture and the complete lack of knowledge of their struggle for freedom. If anything, his statement weakens his own candidacy and strengthens that of Patel.
“I welcome Judge Patel’s appointment and, with great respect, I thought that Judge Madondo putting himself forward as a candidate was both ambitious and presumptuous. He is a relatively junior member of the bench. To hold such a responsible position calls for experience and congeniality. Considering my personal suffering under apartheid, I certainly find his remarks insulting.”
ANC backer and multi-millionaire businessman Vivian Reddy joined the fray, saying that if Malema repeated his racial slur, he (Reddy) would be at the forefront of a delegation taking him to the Human Rights Commission.
“It is rather unfortunate that Malema speaks without thinking. He says anything to please an audience. The word he has used is most offensive and I am glad that the ANCYL has apologised and promised that it will not happen again.”
Law expert Professor Karthy Govender said following an apology issued on Malema’s behalf later in the week: “His guarded apology is inadequate. The word amakula as I understand it has racist connotations. If Malema is engaging in that form of dialogue he is saying that the community is not deserving of respect. That is what the term coolie implies.”
Activist Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of the Mahatma, said she was saddened by both incidents, which had no place in the present dispensation.
“These racist remarks are extremely irresponsible and those who made them are not, in my opinion, worthy of holding any public position,” she said. “It is quite clear that they cannot conduct themselves in their roles without showing bias. While we talk of affirmative action, that must not be based on the kind of absolute racism these two men display.
“Both Julius Malema and Judge Isaac Madondo are speaking totally out of context in terms of our constitution, which protects the rights and dignity of every South African, irrespective of race, creed or religion. If South Africa is to retain its standing in the world we cannot afford to tolerate remarks like this.”
Minority Front leader Amichand Rajbansi said it was a vital issue. “Malema needs a lesson on his own party’s policies. By using the term amakula he has hurt the millions of Indians living in the diaspora.”
On Patel, he said: “So far all the judge presidents are black. Why shouldn’t an Indian judge be appointed this time round?
“I have nothing against any African, but the MF will consider an investigation by the Human Rights Commission against anyone who brings race into this issue. Chiman Patel is an outstanding judge.”
Magdalene Moonsamy, the ANCYL president’s spokeswoman, attempted to defend Malema.
“The domestic worker is still known as ‘the girl’ and the gardener is ‘the boy’. Unacceptable as it is, it remains a consequence of… a system that forced us to live apart and entrenched tendencies that are wrong without us knowing it.
“The word amakula is as bad as ‘the girl’ or ‘the boy’. We all don’t think it’s wrong, but this must be attributed to our omnipresent past. The president of the ANCYL has apologised for having used such a word. He used it in the vernacular, because the architects of apartheid taught us that is how we refer to each other.
“It is our collective responsibility to defeat the ghosts of the apartheid past and embrace an earnest apology, reminding ourselves every day of the unintended wrongs we may commit.” - Sunday Tribune