Ram Maharaj
Ram Maharaj

Opinion - The Malema dilemma and danger raises the ugly head of racism once again where he stated that “the majority of Indians are racist”.

His generalised racist rant is inconsistent with the 2017 poll conducted by the South African Institute for Race Relations, which clearly indicates that 96% of Indians agree that “different races need each other for progress and that there should be full opportunities for all”. 

The findings also prove that 92% of South Africans are moderate in their attitudes.

Racism is non-racial in its reach. 

While a fringe few vociferous and venomous racists exist in all racially defined population groups, the silent majority simply want to live in harmonious co-existence characterised by an ethos of caring and sharing. 

South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

Regardless of race, individuals who fan the flames of hatred and conflict through incendiary racist rhetoric and racial stereotyping must be prosecuted.

Malema’s reckless conduct amounts to a prima facie violation of the rights of our Indian community to equality and human dignity in terms of sections 9 and 10 of our constitution. 

It further amounts to unfair discrimination on the grounds of race, as provided for in sections 6 and 7 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.

With rights come responsibilities. 

Freedom of expression, as encapsulated in section 16 of our constitution, is not unlimited and does not extend to, inter alia, advocacy of hatred based on race or ethnicity and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

Malema has projected a pathological disdain for South Africans of Indian origin since 2011 when he used the “c**lies* word. 

He subsequently expressed ignorance that the word was derogatory and apologised.

Cognisant of the context of the growing incidences of needless and senseless anti-Indian slanders igniting racial tension, it is imperative that the 158-year chequered history of Indians be known.

Through torture, torment, tears and toil in slave-like conditions, our indentured Indian ancestors and successive generations made monumental contributions to the development of a peaceful, progressive and prosperous South Africa. 

Striving and thriving with education as the apex priority, underprivileged Indians turned scars into stars and adversity into advantage for the benefit of all.

Numerous educational, medical and other essential facilities are provided out of love for our black brothers and sisters by various Indian-based organisations. 

Malema is either ignorant or ignoring the historical fact that many Indians made sterling sacrifices, including loss of life, in the epic Struggle for democracy.

These truths cannot be wished or washed away at the altar of political expediency. Malema is stooping to dirty gutter politics by playing the populist race card for vote baiting.

It is unfortunate that Malema’s anti-Indian diatribe comes on the cusp of the critical 10th BRICS Summit in Sandton from July 25-27. 

Surely, South Africa and India will endeavour to deepen an enduring bond long forged and flourishing. India is the largest democracy on Earth with the world’s highest economic growth rate of 7.7% (2017-2018).

It is time for a conscious, collective and educative anti-racism campaign to change mindsets and patterns of belligerent behaviour. Let us heal the wounds of our fractured past by refraining from using patently prejudicial, pernicious and polarising language of a hate speech character.

With a sense of vision and mission let us strategically formulate and implement a pragmatic programme ensuring redress, reconciliation and reconstruction. As a nation rich in diversity, we are subject to a common direction and destiny. We need to build and not burn bridges of communication and co-operation.

We, South Africans all, having the will and capacity to spread goodwill and growth, can and must contribute, in ways big or small, to unity in diversity, social cohesion and nation-building.

Stop the hatred! Inciting hatred is suicidal for South Africa as it sows the sinister seeds of fear and uncertainty eroding hope for an all-inclusive better and brighter future.

On October 1, 1995, our late great president Nelson Mandela stated: “No one is born hating another because of the colour of his skin or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite.”

In addition to education, legislation and the judicial system needs to be enhanced to uproot racial and religious rants. Religious leaders of all faiths should sincerely preach and practise inter-racial and inter-religious respect, understanding and appreciation. Hinduism rejects racism.

Discrimination on the grounds of race or religion is the outcome of a broken and constricted view of life emphasising superficial differences. 

Its ethics, therefore, are not those of according to others the rights and privileges which one would wish for oneself, but of seeking to advance one’s separate and selfish interests at the expense of all others. Its justification and practice are antithetical to the philosophy and principles of Hinduism.

A fundamental tenet of Hinduism is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - the whole world is one family. 

Hinduism believes in oneness and unity among all human beings and all life. All human beings are equal children of the same one God with inherent divinity and dignity. Working together, let us create a South Africa at peace with itself and at peace with the rest of the world.

“Be the change you want to see,” said Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, it all begins with each one of us. Come, let us leave behind a lasting legacy which will instil pride in ancestry and hope for posterity.

* Ram Maharaj is the president of the South African Hindu Dharma Sabha.