By Rivonia Naidu
African National Congress Youth League president Fikile Mbalula has been accused of shooting from the hip with "racist" and "xenophobic" statements after his controversial remarks about Indians at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
According to a weekend report, Mbalula told a June 1976 Memorial Lecture at the Wits Great Hall last week that UKZN was swelling its ranks with Indians.
Mbalula allegedly claimed that transformation of higher learning institutions had turned the university "into nothing but Bombay" and that black African students "suffer on the periphery of transformation".
"When you get into that institution you can think it's an exclusive university of Indians only," he said.
ANC veteran Phyllis Naidoo was angered at hearing the report, saying that Mbalula's statement was "xenophobic".
Mbalula's comments also flew in the face of facts which show clearly that UKZN has a balanced representation of race groups among the student population, academics and supporting staff.
The figures show that 53 percent of students are African, 31 percent Indian, 13 percent white and 3 percent coloured.
Figures of academic staff showed that 38 percent were white, 34 percent were African, 26 percent were Indian and 2 percent were coloured.
Supporting staff figures stated that 45 percent of staff were African, 33 percent Indian, 18 percent white and four percent coloured.
UKZN spokesperson Professor Dasarath Chetty said if the comments attributed to Mbalula in a Sunday newspaper were correct, then there was serious cause for concern.
Another political veteran Fatima Meer said UKZN campus was one of the most multiracial.
"To call it a Bombay is being very racist. The tragedy is that we have just emerged from suffering from racism and now we go back harping on about not liking one race or another," Meer said.
UKZN vice-chancellor Prof Malegapuru Makgoba said he did not wish to comment, but described Mbalula as someone "who was just causing trouble for the university".