Fatima Asmal-Motala
3 minute read
20 Jan 2012
00:00

New Raj takes over

Fatima Asmal-Motala

NEW Minority Front (MF) leader Shameen Thakur Rajbansi, pledged to continue her late husband’s fight for the establishment of a minorities commission and a minorities ministry in South Africa....

NEW Minority Front (MF) leader Shameen Thakur Rajbansi, pledged to continue her late husband’s fight for the establishment of a minorities commission and a minorities ministry in South Africa.

The late Amichand Rajbansi and his wife were a political team. Both served as members of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature. Yesterday she kept the dynasty going, stepping into his shoes as leader of the party.

Rajbansi, a populist leader known as the Bengal Tiger, died in December after a long illness.

MF spokesperson Patrick Pillay at a press conference said Thakur Rajbansi was elected by general consensus among elected representatives and party members at a meeting on Monday.

Pillay said the choice was easy because their late leader had given guidelines on leadership succession.

“This was not a mammoth task because the MF has a clear direction in terms of the individual to be elected with the prerequisite skills and immense political experience in all spheres of government,” he said.

Thakur Rajbansi said her first mandate as leader of the party was to further the aims of her late husband.

“In his own words, it was, ‘to make South Africa world class, the aims of minorities is paramount,’” she said.

“He stood firm that, the success of any democracy is dependent on the manner in which the minority communities are accommodated.”

Thakur-Rajbansi’s election as a woman heading a political party has been welcomed; however questions have been raised about the longevity of minority parties.

Political analyst Dr Lubna Nadvi said that it was good seeing more women driving political parties and political processes. However she added that they still operate in a male dominated context, where chauvinistic attitudes prevail.

“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, she said.

Nadvi said that Thakur Raj­bansi replacing her husband as leader sees a continuation of dynastic or family run politics.

“It seems to be a trend globally, like the Gandhi family heading the Congress Party in India, there is nothing wrong with it, but one has to ask whether it is in the best interest of democracy,” Nadvi added.

She believes that the MF might not necessarily lose support with Thakur-Rajbans as the leader.

She was close to her husband, knew what he wanted and has undertaken to take his legacy forward. However, Nadvi questions whether there is any longevity for minority politics in post apartheid South Africa.

She said the MF may take up issues on behalf of the Indian community, but these are mainly at the level of community interests. She said community issues were common to all race groups and there is a need to redefine spaces where these can be addressed.

The IFP welcomed Thakur Rajbansi as the new MF leader. Blessed Gwala, IFP Leader in the KZN Legislature said: “It is no doubt that she is an exceptional leader who will keep on the memory of her late husband.”

 

See related: ‘I’m not SA’s Sonia Gandhi’