Indians ‘black enough’ to fight in freedom Struggle
NOT so long ago, I attended a discussion on the subject of a national alternative. The discussion concentrated largely on the basic malaise of the present political order and was bereft of the excitement of the current ANC election race for its presidency.
Some distinguished political, economic and social scientists took part and so did some political honchos.
One of the party hacks began his concluding remarks with: “I am not an intellectual. I am a political activist.”
Looking pleased with his autobiographical touch, he rubbed it in repeatedly. This outburst set me thinking. Can politics in the real sense, serious political thinking, be divorced from intellectual effort?
From what I read of the lead story in a weekend newspaper recently, about: “Indians not being black enough for BEE”, it was shocking to see how a wellknit political party, thriving on the glamour of a revolution that moved the largest segment of black (African, coloured, Indian) masses could find itself so out of touch with history.
Now, as a post-apartheid establishment, its ability to epitomise the non-racial consensus seems to have eroded.
What do you say to Sihle Zikalala, ANC KwaZulu-Natal leader and his clique who, a few days after a North Gauteng High Court judgment in the inquest into the death in detention of ANC cadre Ahmed Timol, ruled that the freedom fighter was murdered by the police, and their attempts to marginalise Indian and coloured South Africans?
Indian and coloured South Africans paid a high price for justice and the ideal of a non-racial democracy – cadres like Ahmed Timol, Hoosen Haffejee, Krish Rabilall (assassinated in ANC camps in Mozambique by Special Branch agents), Lenny Naidu, Fatima Meer, Strini Moodley, Phyllis Naidoo and her son Sadhan (assassinated in ANC camps in Tanzania by South African secret agents), Dulcie September, Indres Naidoo, Ashley Kriel, Kevin Ruiters, Billy Nair, et al?
The British and Dutch imperialists brought Indian slaves from places like Bengal, Coromandel, Coimbatore and Malabar (over 36%) as well as Ceylon (now Sri Lanka; 3.1%) and slaves from the East Indies (0.49%), Madagascar and East Africa (over 26%) to the Cape between 1654 and 1818.
When slavery was abolished in 1834, the British substituted this pernicious labour system with indentured labour – semi-slavery.
In 1860, the first batch of Indian indentured labour was brought to the Natal Colony to labour on its sugar cane plantations.
This weekend, the 1860 Heritage Foundation will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the abolition of indenture at its museum in Durban.
The unsung heritage and deaths of these slaves, indentured labourers and freedom fighters brought to an end a sui generis life of political engagements and commitment towards the liberation of the black people of South Africa.
Should we today praise the cocky insolence of the ANC KZN leadership for their outrageous insinuations that Indians and coloureds are “not black enough”?
In redefining who is black, do they not realise the truth that Indians and coloured South Africans were also victims of racial segregation and white baasskap during the colonial and apartheid eras?
Alternatively, should we pillory the ANC KZN leadership for abdicating one of the prime responsibilities of government – the protection of all citizens, including Indians and coloureds?
That such distortions need urgent correction should be acknowledged by those who dance to the tune of the ruling dispensation in KZN for the sake of personal advancement.
The ANC KZN leadership ring has endorsed Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as their preferred candidate for ANC presidency. But was she or Luthuli House consulted about blocking Indians and coloureds from state contracts of more than R50 million? Will she and the ANC support or distance themselves from this move?
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has reportedly rejected the proposal on the grounds that it wouldn’t stand up to constitutional muster.
There may, of course, be political power brokers who have no pretence of profiting from state contracts. A tenderpreneur, a Tammany Hall boss – they all look upon politics as an end in itself. They deem it necessary to put a rival aspirant/s in the wrong, even absurdly colour-coding blacks, whether he/she is a rival contractor posing a threat to the authority of an office bearer.
In 2001, president Nelson Mandela accused some African members of the ANC of being “arrogant” and widening the gap among race groups.
“They now throw their weight around as a majority. There are some Africans who inspire fear in the minorities because of the way they behave,” Mandela said.
Mandela seemed to put to rest ambiguities about who was black, grouping Africans, coloureds and Indians as the “black” sector of the nation.
Have Zikalala and his clique been blinded from the sacrifices of Indians and coloureds in the liberation struggle for their version of Radical Economic Transformation (RET)?
Are they not misreading RET as a response to “white monopoly capital” or is it a “radical enrichment transformation of an African elite” mindset that seeks to crush the free spirit of coloured and Indian South African endeavour?
They have made and continue to make significant contributions to our democracy.
From this snapshot glimpse of a frightening exercise of power, one can understand the horrors perpetrated under the apartheid regime.
History tells us that all great revolutions were preceded by tremendous intellectual ferment. One can’t think of the French Revolution, for instance, without the scholastic Rousseau and Voltaire.
The Russian Revolution was preceded by almost a century of intellectual ferment, in which rose Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Chekov, Tolstoy and many others, right up to Gorky.
Back home, the mass revolutionary upheaval that brought a non-racial, non-sexist democracy was accompanied throughout its painful journey by phenomenal intellectual activity, spearheaded by Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement, the UDF, SACP and the ANC.
The ANC KZN leadership’s understanding of contemporary South Africa seems to be caught in a time warp. It appears frozen in its conviction that neither South Africa nor its non-racial, non-sexist democracy can endure – a belief it stubbornly holds now it pronounces Indian and coloured South Africans not black enough. Indian and coloured South Africans in KZN are only beginning to learn that their old certitudes count for very little now. Ami Nanackchand is a