An unwarranted attack against South African Indians by EFF leader Julius Malema during his Durban visit at the weekend was a deliberate ploy to garner more votes for the party in KwaZulu-Natal by exploiting racial tensions, a political analyst believes.
The Minority Front lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for hate speech, which is being investigated.
The ruling African National Congress has also condemned Malema’s utterances, which, it says, constitute discrimination.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said this was a sensitive matter but he was not surprised by the no-holds barred comments made by Malema at the EFF’s fourth anniversary celebrations at Curries Fountain in Durban on Saturday.
Malema reportedly said Indian people were ill-treating “our people” and were “worse than Afrikaners were”.
He claimed this was not an anti-Indian statement, but simply the truth because Indian shop owners didn’t pay people, instead giving them food parcels.
“[The EFF] are not doing well in KwaZulu-Natal. They have the worst performance there,” Mathekga said.
“So, when you look at the numbers there and see they aren’t doing well, they probably want to trump up support by speaking this way, agitating people and creating ethnic tensions.
“One doesn’t expect political leaders to take such positions where they fail to think about what they say. But their politics are not based on racial harmony. ”
Mathekga said it was important that, should the SAHRC implement remedial action, it must be implemented.
“In this country you can’t find solutions [by] victimising people.”
The EFF said it made no apology for the statement.
“Each time we come across the suffering and oppression of our people, we shall not mince our words, nor tiptoe around false minority feelings,” it said.
“The Indian community in Durban, and elsewhere in the country, needs to confront its own ills and the normalised hatred African people experience among them.”
The SAHRC’s Gushwell Brooks assured the public that while there was no timeline for an outcome of the investigation, the probe would be conducted to the best of its ability.
Minority Front spokesperson Jonathan Annipen said it hoped the investigation would show that Malema’s comments constituted hate speech.
“The comments already on social networks are quite derogatory from angered communities who feel Indians are treating them poorly.
“There must be some consequence or action imposed on him and the EFF. To use [the Indian community] to garner votes won’t work as we work hard to ascertain social cohesion.”
ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala said although economic imbalance in the country was challenging “we must fight to avoid a situation to peddle racial discrimination”.
ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa added that Malema’s comments were unfortunate in that “we still describe people on the basis of stereotypes”.
Civil rights organisation AfriForum submitted criminal charges of incitement to trespassing against Malema at the Lyttelton Police Station on Tuesday.
Malema encouraged his followers at the EFFs’ birthday event to occupy the land of white people.
Ernst Roets, deputy chief executive officer of AfriForum, said according to media reports, Malema said: “If you don’t have a piece of land you are a coward.
“Go and identify a piece of land anywhere you like. That is your land. In my ward in Seshego we did that. The owner came and said he had been listening and we could take half. If you don’t listen, you will lose the whole land. White land owners must share land.” – firstname.lastname@example.org