Durban attorney Kirshen Naidoo admonished President Cyril Ramaphosa for failing to thank the Indian government for the vaccine delivery. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS
Durban attorney Kirshen Naidoo admonished President Cyril Ramaphosa for failing to thank the Indian government for the vaccine delivery. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

South Africans of Indian origin should pledge allegiance to SA not India

By Edwin Naidu Time of article published Feb 7, 2021

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Johannesburg - South Africans of Indian origin urgently need a mindset shift. They do not belong to a homogeneous group and should stop this nonsense about India being the motherland.

If you’re born and raised in South African, a descendent of those who arrived as indentured labourers on the SS Truro in 1860, and worked hard to successfully establish their roots here, you are South African, first and foremost.

Many are united in the belief that this, not the country of Modi but that of Mandela’s, is our motherland. It is our South Africa and belongs to all who live in it.

A mindset shift is not only for those confused about their identity from an Indian point of view but certainly from a South African one. In promoting social cohesion, by maintaining apartheid-era racial tags, the ANC has failed to promote “One South Africa, One people”. Sadly, this has left us more divided as a nation.

The affiliation with India from a religious and cultural perspective is a personal choice and one that is guaranteed in the Constitution. Under apartheid and subsequent democratic governments, South Africans with Indian roots have been permitted freedom to worship and maintain links with India as they please. And this will continue. India was the first country to support the anti-apartheid movement by cutting ties with the Nats in 1946.

But there’s confusion about one’s sense of belonging. The allegiance of every South African should be to the flag of what Archbishop Tutu once labelled the “Rainbow Nation”. There is no debate.

South Africans of Indian origin should be singing Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica – not Jana Gana Mana, the national anthem of India. It should be long live South Africa, not Jai Hind, or victory to India. Similarly, there should be support for the Proteas, not the Indian cricket team.

One would be forgiven assuming that there’s a raging diplomatic row between South African and India over President’s Cyril Ramaphosa’s apparent failure to thank the Indian government for vaccines purchased at great expense to tackle the Covid-19 scourge.

The vaccines arrived with mild fanfare on Monday. Instead of allowing the distribution to begin, on Tuesday Durban attorney Kirshen Naidoo was admonishing the president in a lame Gareth Cliff style-letter for failing to thank the Indian government. Ludicrously, he claims to represent people peeved at the snub to India.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed when Neeshan Bolton, a spokesperson for the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, schooled the want-to-be-activist, pointing out that it was public knowledge two weeks ago that South Africa ordered the Astrazeneca vaccine for R78 a dose and 1.5 million vaccines were to be shipped directly to the country from the Serum Institute.

Bolton adds that the delivery of vaccines to South Africa from the Serum Institute is based on a commercial agreement between the South African government and pharmaceutical company, Astrazeneca without a need to thank the Serum Institute or the Indian government. You would think people would get the message since it comes from the foundation of a man who spent his life in prison with Mandela.

Alarmingly, the price paid by South Africa is almost double that paid for the same drug in Europe. Where are the voices about this perceived Indian greed? One wonders if this is a form of Gupta tax by the Indians who must think that South Africa is a cash cow pretty much like those despicable brothers did.

But it was not over. Another rebuttal from one Narendh Ganesh, whose argument was akin to a yawnful social media reply calling on Bolton’s acerbic response to be reconsidered and appropriately reviewed. Mr Ganesh and similar small-minded people should get a life.

The reality is that more than 45 000 South Africans have lost their lives to Covid-19. The government has procured potentially life-saving vaccines at huge cost in a bid to ensure that more lives are not lost as nobody knows when the pandemic will be reined in. There are talks about a third wave. The crisis is real.

If the number of deaths on a daily basis does not inspire humility, at least it should help temper one’s baseless arguments. Should one really be taking issue over a non-issue like a thank you when people have to bury their loved ones through drive-by funerals?

South Africans of Indian origin are not doing themselves any favours at a time when parochial interests should be put aside in the interests of the nation. Just as well EFF leader Julius Malema has a tea date with the king of Nkandla, Jacob Zuma, who left the country’s tills wide open for the greedy Guptas.

Even shocking is the current furore enabled by spineless religious leaders over the name of the Holi Cow, a restaurant which has been operating in Fourways, Gauteng for the past eight years. It seems as if someone has awoken out of a slumber to angrily make a moo over the name. Animal names adorn many restaurants.

It is a personal choice whether one wants to eat or not. But infringing on the owner’s right to trade under a name that harms nobody is dangerous, and could set a precedent in South Africa where empty vessel protesters without struggle credentials spring up like weeds acting holier than thou.

This behaviour is not new. When I worked on the Sunday Tribune (Herald) in 1993, I wrote about Nelson Mandela’s visit to India in 1993 when actress Shabana Azmi kissed him on his cheek, disgracefully inviting the wrath of the Muslim community in India – and South Africa.

Many of Indian origin, like Krishna Rabilal, one of 12 soldiers killed by the apartheid army during a raid in Matola in Mozambique 30 years ago, or Chatsworth’s Surendra “Lenny” Naidu, gunned down on June 8, 1988, in an ambush in Piet Retief, died as South African heroes. The pseudo-modern-day activists do not hold a candle to the likes of Rabilal or Naidu. Their contribution to the struggle for democracy as equals – and not Indians – should not be cheapened by confused loyalties.

On Thursday, the Presidency announced that Ramaphosa had a telephonic conversation with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, applauding the government and people of India for its gift to the world in the form of vaccines and scientific knowledge. So, what’s the fuss? Will our president get any credit for this gesture?

South Africans of Indian origin should grow up and embrace our “Rainbow Nation” – or take the next flight “home” for good once Covid-19 restrictions ease.

The Sunday Independent

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