South African Politician Faces Criticism Over Comments Against Indians
Willies Mchunu, the premier of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa, reportedly said, “Indians are not part of South Africa.”
South African Opposition parties are demanding an apology from KwaZulu-Natal province premier Willies Mchunu for his remarks against South African Indians made last week.
During a debate during the Heritage Day celebrations on Sept. 27, Mchunu reportedly said that South Africans of Indian origin are “not a part” of the country.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), the official Opposition to the ruling African National Congress (ANC), to which Mchunu belongs, has asked him to apologize for making the comments.
“The Premier’s office is supposed to champion social cohesion in the province. This is why the budget for social cohesion programs is managed and facilitated through this office. The utterances from the Premier are thus borderline hypocritical and are a contrast to the society we all envision,” a KwaZulu-Natal DA leader told Eye Witness News. “The DA regards this as an insult to the very community that stood arm-in-arm in the fight against the then apartheid government and who suffered enormously as a result of the Group Areas Act and other measures which saw their livelihood as subsistence fisherman continually under threat.”
In voice clips that the South African media accessed, a man believed to be Mchunu is heard saying that the ANC never marginalized Indians and worked well with members of the Natal Indian Congress, the organization founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1894 that aimed to fight discrimination against Indians in South Africa.
“We grew up together with the Natal Indian Congress, we struggled together, we opposed together anything that seeks to promote one race against all others. Now you do not represent a democratic value and a democratic principle. You represent that small minority which sat in Parliament and represented its own grouping,” Mchunu is heard saying.
In another audio clip from the same event, the man says that according to history, Indians were brought to South African shores. “But you claim land for them as if there were no people who were removed from that land before those (Indians) were put in there. Just look at history,” he says. “You tell us about the nation of the Indian people being brought here to South Africa, which is true, but you then claim land for them as if there were no people who were removed from that land before those who were put in there. Now don’t distort history.”
Mchunu, however, dismissed the allegation, and called it “twisted race-baiting” and “scaremongering.” He said he has been working alongside South African Indians for over four decades.
“The ANC has a long history in the Indian communities and working with Indian activists. The DA’s history is of collaboration in the apartheid system while Africans, Indians, coloreds and democratic whites were in the trenches with the ANC fighting for the freedom of all the assurance from the ANC is that our future as Africans, Indians, coloreds and whites is together as one nation,” an official from the ANC told the Independent Online.
Kwazulu-Natal, also known as KZN, is home to one of the largest Indian population in South Africa. Indians, mostly Tamils, were brought to the region in the 1860s by the British to work in sugarcane plantations.