In­di­ans ‘black enough’ to fight in free­dom Strug­gle

Post - - Comment - AMI NANACKCHAND

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

se­nior jour­nal­ist.

FA­TIMA MEER

AHMED TI­MOL

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