Mthethwa spoke on Saturday at the 40th commemoration of the execution of Solomon “Kalushi" Mahlangu, an operative of the ANC’s military wing, uMkhonto weSizwe.
The minister had said the arrival of Van Riebeeck in the country on April 6, 1652, signalled the start of events which eventually led to Mahlangu’s execution.
“The 6th of April marks a double tragedy in the sense that it also marks the arrival on our shores of that convicted criminal called Jan van Riebeeck.
“His landing had devastating effects that led directly to Solomon Mahlangu being hanged, no wonder that he went on with his programme to rob the indigenous people of their land,” Mthethwa had said.
Mahlangu was arrested and convicted for murder and subsequently hanged in 1979.
Mthethwa had added that events such as the commemoration evoked unpleasant memories of the turbulent apartheid years, but those moments would help those born after the dawn of democracy to understand the heavy price their forefathers had to pay for freedom of the land, he said.
But Connie Mulder, head of the Solidarity Research Institute, said he was disappointed that the minister and the ruling ANC had chosen to go the populist route in gearing up for the upcoming elections on May 8.
Mulder said this was particularly sad as President Cyril Ramaphosa had just days prior indicated a willingness to build bridges with white counterparts.
“Basically what Mthethwa is saying is that white people are a mistake which echoes sentiments similar to former president Jacob Zuma in 2015 which is massively worrying.
“We thought he was a reasonable man, but choosing to alienate a whole section of a country makes it difficult for all of us to engage.”
EFF chairperson advocate Dali Mpofu also added his voice to the matter in a tweet which read: “6 April 1652 was the day Jan van Riebeeck arrived on this land a tragic day. Since that day we have had 367 years of misery, wars of dispossession, racism, genocide, forced removals, massacres and other atrocities, including 46 years of apartheid and 25 years of ANC misrule. It ends now.”
Mulder said since the beginning of the electioneering period the organisation had noted with concern the rhetoric being promoted by various political party heads.
“At the moment we are trying to get Black First Land First deregistered from the elections as we can’t have genocide being promoted in this manner. Mthethwa is entitled to his opinion, but it should not border on hate speech,” he concluded.