National Assembly: Tuesday, 16 November 2010
It is a great honour for me to pay tribute today to the
first Indians who arrived in South Africa’s shores exactly 150
years ago, on the 16th of November 1860.
Amongst those I honour today is my grandfather, who as a
23 year old, arrived on South Africa’s shores from
India on the 14th
of April 1897, when he disembarked from the SS Umzinto.
Ironically, Umzinto is still an area which I reside in today. The
contribution of my grandfather and the many other
Indian migrants between 1860-1911 is
well-documented, but I fear the contribution of the
Indian community to our country has not yet been
fully assessed and not fully appreciated.
Amongst our country’s unsung heroes and heroines are undoubtedly the
first pilgrims from
who landed on our shores on board the
on November 16, 1860. The Indian
migrants came searching for greener pastures, but for many, these
were the sugarcane fields of KwaZulu Natal. My grandfather, too,
found employment in this industry and as a young man made a living
working for a sugarcane company in Port Shepstone.
History records that, from the many trials and tribulations of the Indian migrants emerged as many triumphs and a sense
of purpose too. Indian people lived cheek by jowl with their African
brothers and sisters until 1966, when the group areas act, which
separated all South Africans, took effect. But this did not dampen
the fighting spirit of the Indian people. It was the South African Indian community who invested its originally very
scarce resources into the education of their children and the
uplifting of their social and economic condition so that each
subsequent generation could surpass their fathers' one, not only in
terms of economic prosperity but also in terms of education,
knowledge and awareness. This led to the establishment of 400
community built schools, mainly in KwaZulu Natal.
The arrival of my Indian
brothers and sisters in South Africa
also led to a powerful relationship between India and South Africa.
Today, we laud the role of India
in shaping the political landscape of South Africa. India
has left indelible imprints on the human race over the course of
centuries and today, India is not only
a rising twenty-first-century superpower, but the pace of change in
the world's largest democracy, with its vibrant and open society, is
History records that we, South Africa
share a common past. Both of our countries were subjected to
occupation by British imperialists, and our hardships and
experiences during our Colonial periods bear striking resemblances.
I am proud that South Africa
special relationship was forged in the struggle against racial
oppression and discrimination.
But despite the commendable relationship between our two countries,
the fact remains that 150 years since the arrival of the first
Indians to our shores many challenges still remain
for South Africa’s Indian community.
The perception that all Indian
people are rich businessmen and women is false and has created, in
my opinion, the myth that there are no poor
Indians in South Africa.
This is simply not true. A quick tour around KwaZulu Natal will
reveal that some of the poorest inhabitants of KwaZulu Natal are in
fact Indians. It is with
this in mind that I believe that there is an urgent need for
Government and NGOs to do more to assist our
Indian communities to access housing and other
In addition, clearly not enough has been done to preserve and honour
the culture, religion and traditions of the
Indian community although these rights are
entrenched in our Constitution. Currently the State broadcaster the
SABC only flights one or two TV programmes per week of interest for
the Indian community. I am glad to note that the Minister of
Communications is participating in this debate and I trust he would
respond to this. There has also been no concerted effort on the part
of Government to promote Eastern languages. More schools for
example, could offer Eastern languages as part of their Curriculum.
The issue of equal job opportunities for young graduates is also a
matter of concern.
It is my firm belief, that it is important that we take advantage of
this moment in history to ensure the lasting and sustainable legacy
of the Indian community. There have been many calls for
national monuments to honour the achievements of the Indian
community, with Curries Fountain and
market seen as two options where such monuments could be considered.
A monument similar to that of the Afrikaner Taal Monument
or the Afrikaner Voortrekker Monument
is an example. It is of concern to note that Durban Documentation
Centre which used to house artefacts has shut its doors.
am also in favour of the creation of a proposed memory bank or
culture centre. The well-known author Professor Ashwin Desai
suggests that such a centre, which could be called the “1860
Memory and Cultural Centre” would bring together all the
collections of photographs and artefacts of the history of South
Africans of Indian
descent into a central place and be put on display in an accessible
and informative fashion. This centre could also host the showing of
documentaries and seminars. Such a centre could make a vital
contribution to ensuring that the old traditions from the
Indian sub-continent, re-born in
Africa, are not lost to South Africans today, and for
generations to come. It will also be a pivot around recording the
long struggle to build Indo-African
unity and the remarkable and courageous choices that people made to
lay the seeds of non-racialism.
Curry and rice and bunny chows are today one of KwaZulu Natal’s, and
indeed South Africa’s, most favourite dishes but the
legacy of the Indian
community of South Africa is
far greater than that of food alone. South Africans from
Indian descent have greatly enriched our nation,
but especially so the Province of KwaZulu Natal.
Today, 150 years ago,
South Africa’s destiny changed. We
must take pride in this historical event and be deeply and humbly
aware of the chain of actions and consequences which that momentous
day set in place.
Today, more than ever before I dream of a homogenous South Africa,
in which South Africa’s Indians
take up their rightful place and finally become citizens who are
proud to be South Africans. Hopefully this dream will still be
realised in my lifetime.
Honourable Members you have heard Indians say “nothing for nothing”
and that is because nothing does come for nothing.
stand here to day as a proud South African of Indian origin to pay
tribute to the thousands of men and women who toiled under
treacherous conditions to make us what we are today. I also take
this opportunity on behalf of the Inkatha Freedom Party to wish all
Muslims EID MUBARAK.
end with the words of IFP President, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi who
has on numerous occasions paid tribute to South Africans of
Indian descent and is on record as saying:
and plainly put, without the blood, sweat, suffering and toil of the
people of the Truro and the many more Indians who followed them, South Africa would not be
what it is today and would not enjoy the levels of prosperity,
development and stability which we now have, and which, albeit far
below our intended goals and aspirations, are nonetheless superior
to those enjoyed anywhere else in sub-Saharan