Johannesburg, Jul 17 (PTI) An NGO in South Africa has reacted to a letter addressed to High Commissioner Sibusiso Ndebele by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Jolly demanding protection for the Indian community that is allegedly under attack in the country.
“Most South Africans of Indian descent are citizens of South Africa and not India and hence these concerns are perhaps misplaced,” Nishan Balton, the Executive Director of Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) said in response to Jolly’s letter, which has been widely circulating on social media.
Jolly in his letter had called the South African unrest an internal issue of the country.
“South Africa unrest after the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma is your internal issue. But violence against Indians in South Africa who fought against apartheid is abhorred,” Jolly said.
“We demand State protection to the life, property and dignity of all Indians in South Africa,” Jolly wrote in the letter, in which he repeated allegations in social media that the Indian community was under attack as the protests after former president Jacob Zuma was jailed on July 7 turned violent.
Zuma was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by the country’s apex court for contempt of court after he repeatedly refused to testify at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, where several witnesses implicated him in corruption.
The week-long orgy of looting and arson, especially in KwaZulu-Natal province, home to about half of South Africa’s 1.3 million Indian-origin citizens, has left damage of tens of billions of rands and severe shortages of food and medicines.
Government ministers have been addressing the concerns related to tensions between the Indian residents of Phoenix and Chatsworth, the two biggest Indian townships created under the apartheid-era separate development polices, and their neighbours in Black townships.
“Had you been concerned about the wellbeing of all South Africans, it might have been better appreciated. Perhaps your letter was raising concerns about Indian nationals in South Africa and that might have been more understandable,” Balton said.
The AKF is named after Ahmed Kathrada, an Indian-origin activist who spent just one year less than Nelson Mandela on Robben Island as a political prisoner before they were freed to lead South Africa to democracy.
AKF aims to foster non-racialism at all levels, without singling out any preferential treatment for any race group as was the case in the white minority apartheid era.
“To demand the protection of life and property of Indians only is also contrary to the calls made by many organisations and leaders of South African Indians who have called for such for All people in the country,” Balton said, adding that Ndebele was himself a prisoner alongside Kathrada on Robben Island.
Balton said that despite South Africans of Indian descent being among the smallest communities in the country, they had played an important part during the freedom struggle.
“This was also repeatedly acknowledged by the late President Nelson Mandela. He included some of them in senior government positions in his plans to firmly establish what the struggle was for – to build a non-racial South African national identity and culture,” he said. PTI FH RUP AKJ RUP RUP