'Indians who own shops don't pay our people' - Malema's racial remarks condemned

31 July 2017 - 14:44 By Yasantha Naidoo
File photo of Julius Malema.
File photo of Julius Malema.
Image: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

Economic Freedom Fighters commander-in-chief Julius Malema has set the cat among the pigeons with his comments about Indians in KwaZulu-Natal during his party's 4th anniversary celebrations in Durban on Saturday. 

Speaking at the EFF celebrations at Curries Fountain‚ Malema said some Indians treated Africans as sub-humans and paid them a pittance. He claimed that the success of Indian businesses in the province was based on their strategies of exploitation and monopolisation of the economy.

"They are ill-treating our people. They are worse than Afrikaners were. This is not an anti-Indian statement‚ it's the truth. Indians who own shops don't pay our people‚ but they give them food parcels."

However the Minority Front‚ initially established by late politician Amichand Rajbansi - who was known as the Bengal Tiger - to protect Indian minority rights‚ said they were consulting with the SA Human Rights Commission over the divisive comments to bolster support for his party.

MF Youth Association chair Councillor Jonathen Annipen said: "The Minority Front rejects these racial remarks made by Julius [Malema] and condemns any form of violent action which may result as a consequence of these statements. While I am not surprised by these frivolous utterances‚ we stand opposed to the notion that Indian families / business persons ill-treat the black counterparts. "

He said Malema was "trying very hard to frustrate the democratic gains of social cohesion and nation building and is deepening the divide between blacks and Indians".

Annipen said: "Malema is a sensationalist who thrives on manipulating the emotions of the disadvantaged and marginalised. Indian people came to South Africa and settled in KZN as indentured labourers. Indians co-existed peacefully with black people and made an enormous contribution to this economy and perhaps even saved it from impending crash."

However‚ social commentator Maggs Naidu posted on Facebook: "Whoever this Annipen character is‚ he's a bloody‚ filthy racist. Anyone who disputes the essence of what Malema said is a rotten liar."

Naidu disputed Annipen's comments that Indian people were successful because they were "hard-working" and “not because they exploit their employees. Indians don’t go around complaining about the evils of black empowerment and affirmative action. They take what’s given to them and excel."

Even terminally ill convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik weighed in on the controversy.

News24 quoted Shaik as saying: “This fool is misinformed and does not have any insight with regard to business ownership in KZN. Why does he not talk about Huletts and other big‚ white capital and business in the province.

“The issue of land distribution must begin with Huletts‚ why is Malema silent on this?” asked Shaik.

Community activist and great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi Satish Dhupelia criticised Malema for tarring the entire Indian population with the same brush.

In his post Dhupelia said: "If you have an issue with people being exploited then that is good‚ because I and many others of different race groups are also against it.

"However in your speech at Curries Fountain you proceeded to label all Indians as being people who are ill-treating others and that is so blatantly wrong on so many levels.

"Instead of picking on an entire group of people as you did‚ I urge you to take action against those employers whom you found to be in the wrong – why you did not address the matter there and then at the moment you allegedly discovered such an issue‚ amazes me - as you have the stature and clout to do so."

"I urge you to work towards such goals rather than perpetuate dissension amongst the various race groups.

"People of all races contributed to the fight for democracy and similarly we must all fight the second battle which is the one against poverty and unemployment.

"We can only do so when we look at each other as fellow citizens‚ as brothers and sisters‚ and we work together‚ and not against each other."

SAHRC spokesman Gail Smith said they were awaiting feedback from their Durban office on this matter.

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