‘Let­ter is hate speech’

Pi­eter­mar­itzburg mi­nor­ity rights group charged with in­cit­ing ten­sion be­tween Africans and In­di­ans

CityPress - - News - PADDY HARPER paddy.harper@city­press.co.za

APort Shep­stone hu­man rights ac­tivist has laid crimen in­juria charges against a mi­nor­ity-rights or­gan­i­sa­tion over a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle claim­ing life in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg’s In­dian ar­eas was bet­ter un­der apartheid than it is to­day.

Ashika Aju­dia, who works for the Port Shep­stone Hu­man Rights Cen­tre, laid the charge against the SA Mi­nor­ity Rights Equal­ity Move­ment (Sam­rem) late last month over a let­ter pub­lished in Galaxy News, a Pi­eter­mar­itzburg com­mu­nity news­pa­per, in Au­gust last year.

Sam­rem – an or­gan­i­sa­tion formed sev­eral years ago by a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing Pi­eter­mar­itzburg ad­vo­cate Ashin Singh, to lobby for the rights of the In­dian com­mu­nity – has been in­volved in a se­ries of slang­ing matches in the news­pa­per.

Sam­rem’s views con­flict with those of In­dian ANC ac­tivists in the town over the state of North­dale and other In­dian ar­eas in KwaZulu-Na­tal’s cap­i­tal. In the let­ter-writ­ing war in the lo­cal pa­per, the Sam­rem ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee com­plained of the in­flux of African “squat­ters” into North­dale and other north­ern Pi­eter­mar­itzburg sub­urbs.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion made head­lines in 2011 af­ter it threat­ened to lay hate speech charges against then ANC youth league pres­i­dent Julius Malema over his use of the term “amakula” (“coolies”) in a pub­lic speech. The charge was with­drawn af­ter a meet­ing be­tween the two or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Last year, Sam­rem laid charges in the Equal­ity Court against Phum­lani Mfeka, the leader of Njenje yama-Nguni, over hate speech against In­di­ans.

In the let­ter head­lined “North­dale sub­urbs – far worse now than un­der apartheid”, Sam­rem said: “The north­ern sub­urbs is start­ing to re­sem­ble what the ANC-led mu­nic­i­pal­ity wants: a for­mer In­dian area in­vaded by squat­ters, who uri­nate and s*** in pub­lic in makeshift struc­tures, next to houses and schools, in full view of the pub­lic.”

In her state­ment to po­lice, Aju­dia said she read the news­pa­per last month and was “par­tic­u­larly of­fended and dis­turbed” about a let­ter writ­ten by Sam­rem mem­ber “D. Pil­lay” head­lined “North­dale sub­urbs – far worse now than un­der apartheid”.

She said the let­ter, which car­ried Pil­lay’s cell­phone num­ber and was is­sued in the name of Sam­rem, was “racially mo­ti­vated, den­i­grat­ing fel­low black African mem­bers of the com­mu­nity on be­half of the mi­nor­ity com­mu­nity of which I am a mem­ber”.

“I fear that such an ar­ti­cle in­cites racial ten­sions against In­dian and African com­mu­ni­ties. This fear is very real and, as a sin­gle par­ent, I feel that Sam­rem, its ex­ec­u­tive and its mem­bers, if any, must be in­ves­ti­gated for in­cit­ing racial ten­sions which – if left unat­tended – can lead to vi­o­lence as was ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence in 2015,” she said.

SA Po­lice Ser­vice spokesper­son Lieu­tenant Nqo­bile Gwala con­firmed a charge of crimen in­juria had been opened in Port Shep­stone and trans­ferred to Pi­eter­mar­itzburg’s Moun­tain Rise Po­lice Sta­tion.

“It is al­leged the com­plainant read the news­pa­per ar­ti­cle from a Pi­eter­mar­itzburg news­pa­per which con­tained hate speech that could lead to racial ten­sion. No ar­rest has been made and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­tin­u­ing,” Gwala said.

In a writ­ten re­sponse to ques­tions from City Press on Fri­day morn­ing, Sam­rem chair­per­son Daleep Lutch­man said they were not aware of any charges against them.

“We can­not spec­u­late as to the source of your in­for­ma­tion, but Sam­rem treats spec­u­la­tive in­for­ma­tion/hearsay with the con­tempt it de­serves. Sam­rem bases ar­gu­ments on truth and ver­i­fi­able facts,’’ he said.

Pil­lay de­clined to com­ment.

Ashika Aju­dia

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