Nelson Mandela closes his eyes as well-wishers in Chatsworth throw petals at him.
Nelson Mandela closes his eyes as well-wishers in Chatsworth throw petals at him.

Opinion: Laager mentality is not part of our history and culture

By Aakash Bramdeo Time of article published Dec 4, 2020

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Editor’s view: The belief that the role and contribution of Indian South Africans has not been recognised or appreciated is false because leaders in society have acknowledged this repeatedly since the birth of our democracy.

Today, the South African Indian community is a million-strong, and it forms a full part of South African society. Hand-in-hand with other peace-loving South Africans, they have played an outstanding role in the Struggle for a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. | Message by Nelson Mandela to the India-South Africa Solidarity Meet in June 1994.

Thabo Mbeki, in his “I am an African” speech, acknowledged this community:.

I come of those who were transported from India and China, whose being resided in the fact, solely, that they were able to provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both be at home and be foreign, who taught me that human existence itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for that human existence. Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that – I am an African. | Thabo Mbeki on the passing of the new Constitution of South Africa in May 1996.

But you don’t have to go that far back.

A few weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa wished Hindus a happy Diwali and said the community had greatly enriched South Africa’s cultural life. He said the spiritual and philosophical traditions of the community had found expression in South Africa’s own Struggle for liberation.

King Goodwill Zwelithini, who has embraced Ishwar Ramlutchman as a prince in the Zulu Kingdom, now celebrates Diwali at the royal palace in KwaNongoma. Zwelithini’s words at this year’s celebration rings true for all of us: “ …. lighting the lamp – the diya– is a chance to remember, even in the midst of darkness, that light will ultimately prevail. Knowledge will defeat ignorance, and compassion will triumph over despair.”

Two weeks ago, to mark the arrival of Indians to South Africa in 1860, the role of the community was once again acknowledged.

South Africans of Indian origin have played an important part in not only the political Struggle against colonialism and apartheid but also in the weaving of our contemporary economic and social fabric. In the spirit of ubuntu, we are because of one another. | Statement by Sihle Zikalala, the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, to mark the 160th anniversary of Indian indenture.

As South Africa celebrates the 160th-year anniversary since the arrival of Indian indentured labourers in the country, for the City of Durban it was so much more than just an arrival. It was the beginning of the manifestation of the city’s rich multicultural history, social cohesion and an inclusive city. | Mxolisi Kauda, mayor of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality.

The story of Indians in South Africa is the story of South Africa itself. Indeed, in 2020, the children of South African-born Indians are no less South African than my own Zulu grandchildren. | Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi in a message published in the POST in November 2020 to commemorate the arrival of indentured labourers in 1860.

We must question the motive of those who seek to propagate lies and, in so doing, undermine our democracy. Perhaps these falsehoods stem from a feeling of marginalisation.

There is no doubt that Indian South Africans, as well as other minority groups in our country, feel left out. This reflects how much work remains in translating the words of our Constitution into reality.

However, the manner in which we go about addressing our fears and fragility is important.

We can’t create an us-and-them situation and rally people on the basis of race. The result of that is what we saw in Senekal and Brakenfell.

We can’t act like bullies who want to show how powerful we are because we come from a culture that teaches us to be humble. Our forefathers built. They did not break. They helped those who had less and stood up to those who abused their power.

Irrespective of how catchy the phrase, we shouldn’t do anything to harm our economy, certainly not after the destruction Covid-19 has caused.

A few days ago, Nomsa Dube-Ncube, the MEC for Finance, told us our economy in KZN is expected to shrink by about 10% this year. It will shrink further next year. Liquidations during September increased by 54% compared with last year, and unemployment in the province is hovering at just under 50%.

Given this, any stayaway would be economic suicide. The loss of a single day of revenue in the busiest part of the year could be the difference between whether a shop closes or continues to trade. And that has a direct impact on whether a job is saved or lost.

Our country is by no means perfect. But in addressing our concerns, let us stick to the facts. And let us act in a manner that doesn’t undo the achievements of the last 160 years.

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