INDIAN DIASPORA CONFERENCE 2015 ETHNICITY, RACE AND CITIZENSHIP: THE PLACE OF INDIANS IN THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA
GALA DINNER HOSTED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU NATAL
CELEBRATING 155 YEARS OF INDIAN COMMUNITY IN SOUTH AFRICA
MESSAGE OF SUPPORT BY PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY AND TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER TO THE ZULU MONARCH AND NATION
City Hall, Durban: 13 November 2015Professor Pratap Kumar and the Organising Committee of the 2015 Indian Diaspora Conference; Dr Zweli Mkhize, Treasurer General of the ANC; Her Excellency Ms Ghanashyam, High Commissioner of the Republic of India; Mr Vivian Reddy; and all the honoured guests of the University of KwaZulu Natal present this evening. Thank you for allowing me a few moments to express my support for the Indian Diaspora Conference celebrating 155 years of Indian community in South Africa. It seems like just yesterday that we commemorated the 150th anniversary of the docking of the Truro at Port Natal. Five years later, our thoughts turn to the issue of “Ethnicity, Race and Citizenship – The Place of Indians in the New South Africa”. I am grateful to the scholars and speakers who have travelled to attend this conference, for your insight will enrich the present dialogue in South Africa. In particular, I welcome Professor Vinay Lal of the University of California, knowing that he has studied the history of the Mahatma Gandhi. No doubt, this afternoon, Professor Goolam Vahed and Professor Lal had much to talk about. The present debate on Gandhi’s politics is a heated one in South Africa, for it somehow emphasises the fault lines in the relationship between Indian and black South Africans. I am ashamed that these fault lines exist in a democratic and liberated South Africa, for we prize our multi-cultural identity, knowing that it makes us who we are. It is the strength of our nation. Unfortunately, though, the present challenges of inequality, poverty, unemployment and the rising cost of living are driving wedges between our people, and it seems division along the lines of race is the default setting of our country. The reasons behind Afro-Indian tensions are of course more complex than competition for resources, as I am sure this conference has shown. But at the most fundamental level, need and anxiety tend to have extreme consequences. They either unite, or divide. As a lifelong friend of the Indian community, I must believe that the possibility exists for us to rally and face hardship as a united force. I must believe that reconciliation, restoration and unity are achievable goals. I have seen through the Buthelezi Commission, the KwaZulu/Natal Indaba, the democratic negotiations and the first years of a Government of National Unity, how inclusivity achieves extraordinary results. Our present challenges can surely be met with unity as well. There is a danger in letting tensions rise and divisions deepen. We must establish the truth that a liberated South Africa was achieved through the efforts of both Indian and black South Africans. We shared a struggle. We both endured discrimination and backbreaking labour, oppression and poverty. The vision of a liberated, democratic South Africa was built by hands that worked in the sugar cane fields, hands that opened shops, hands that reached out to others and hands that were held together in prayer. Many times over the years I have called myself a Zulu Indian. There are many labels I could apply to myself: South African, Zulu, Christian, politician, conservationist, prince, father. But none of these labels, by themselves, completely define me. Being one does not preclude me from being the other. In the same way, South Africans of Indian extraction are still South African, and no less so. Whether you call yourself Indian, South African, Hindu, academic or student, you remain of equal value to “the new South Africa”. As this conference closes tomorrow with a roundtable discussion on the status and political future of Indians in South Africa, I encourage you to begin not from the question of whether Indians have a contribution to make, but from the premise that your contribution is eminently valuable. South Africa cannot move forward with its character and health intact if parts of us are left behind or left out. That is a lesson we cannot afford to learn the hard way. It is a truth we must readily embrace. I thank you.