DURBAN - In a week in which Indo-African race relations became a focal point, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe appealed to South Africans to unite in their diversity.
Radebe joined several hundred people on a 15km social cohesion walk from Phoenix to KwaMashu on Saturday, hoping to help bridge the growing divide between Indians and Africans.
The “We Are One” walk echoed the “One Nation, Many Cultures” mantra Nelson Mandela championed in the 1990s.
The annual walk took on greater significance in the wake of recent racial comments by EFF leader Julius Malema and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, said Indians had undermined Africans in the Treasury.
At a Youth Day gathering in Klerksdorp, North West, Malema said most Indians were racist.
In addition, on a Kulula flight, Johannesburg resident Alochna Moodley recently allegedly used the K-word to describe other passengers. She has since been fired by her company, SMC Pneumatics.
And in Durban this week, Cosatu staged a protest at a garage where a 28-year-old Durban man allegedly doused a black woman employee with petrol and set her alight.
The woman’s legs were badly burnt. The man was arrested and is expected to appear in court tomorrow charged with attempted murder.
“Such incidents must be condemned. They do not belong in the new South Africa. Law enforcement and justice must take its course,” Radebe said on the walk.
He rejected Malema’s claim that the “majority of Indians hate Africans and are racist”.
Radebe said: “We’re celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela. He taught us about non-racism and that we need to build a South Africa with blacks and whites united in our diversity. We want to bridge the divide of the apartheid past because we’re one nation.”
He added that the walk was aimed at using sport and exercise to encourage the communities of Phoenix, Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu to unite.
The Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, the Right Reverend Steve Moreo, joined in the chorus of criticism levelled at Malema and his EFF associates, labelling their comments as hate speech.
Moreo said the remarks went against the spirit of ubuntu (compassion and humanity) that rose to prominence with the first democratic elections in 1994.'
Durban businessman Vivian Reddy said such initiatives were important in the context of recent racial tensions and the only way to fix South Africa and ensure it moved forward as a united country.
“One little road divides the two communities, but they are still so far apart in understanding each other and socialising,” said Reddy.
“It is my hope that this initiative is emulated across the country and especially in KwaZulu-Natal, where Indians and Africans have lived together for years.”
Reddy blamed the Group Areas Act for separating Indian and black people.
Of Malema’s comments, he said: “It is simply not true that the majority of Indians are racists. There are racists in all communities. To say the majority of Indians are racist because they might have voted for the DA is unfounded.
“A vote is a personal choice and it doesn’t make you a racist if you vote for a different party. It doesn’t gauge racism.”
He said there was enough goodwill between Indian and African communities to ensure social cohesion was achieved.
But he conceded racism persisted in Indian, white and black communities.
“Instead of making divisive statements, politicians should make statements that bring communities together. We need people who say things that build unity rather than divide people,” said Reddy.
Socialite Shashi Naidoo also made headlines this week after referring to the Palestinian territory of Gaza as a s***hole.
Naidoo said she had copied and pasted the comments from a friend into an Instagram post.
She had since apologised and said she would visit Palestine to educate herself.
Meanwhile, Sunni-Shia tensions continued countrywide this week, with several leading Muslim organisations withdrawing from the Cape Accord, an agreement to promote peace and unity.