While the world is currently engulfed in the Corona epidemic and Afghanistan-Taliban tussle, there is one emerging issue that is not getting an adequate attention of the World. Not many people are aware that there is ongoing unrest in South Africa which has severely affected the Indians and Indian origin South Africans in the country.
According to several media reports, thousands of businesses and establishments owned by Indians have been looted and vandalized by pro-Zuma rioters. At the same time, more than 70 people have been killed in the selective violence that triggered after the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.
According to the media reports, several Businesses like technology firms, pharmacies, retail stores, motor dealerships, and supermarkets owned by Indians have been attacked. There has been several reports which claimed that losses amounting to several millions have been reported by the Indian businessmen in last few days. The rioters have attacked the homes of Indians, have stolen TV sets, fridges, and groceries among other things.
This is a clear case of racial violence between the native South Africans and Indians, which has created a vicious environment among the locals.
Why did this violence start?
This all is linked with the ongoing legal case belongs to several corruption charges levied on former President Jacob Zuma between 2009 to 2018. A legal investigation investigation is being by the law commission setup by the South African government. The court has already ordered Zuma to be present before the commission for questioning, but he has been failed to do so on multiple occasions.
Zuma was later arrested for contempt of court and sent to the Escort correction centre for 15-months. Zuma approached the apex court against this verdict but didn’t get any sort of relief, and he has to complete his sentence. Zuma is a very popular leader with a massive supporter base, once this news broke, thousands of his supporters came out on the streets and violent demonstrations took place in several cities and violence erupted.
Why Indians are being targeted?
Well, this is the biggest question, that why Indians are being targeted, and the answer lies with a highly influential Saharanpur-origin business family, ‘the Guptas’.
‘Gupta brothers’ Ajay Gupta, Rajesh Gupta, and Atul Gupta migrated to South Africa in the 1990s and started a company Sahara Computers, which started off as a small family business. It has grew in leaps and bounds and currently employs over 10, 000 employees with an annual turnover of about USD 22 Million.
Later on the Gupta brothers started diversifying their business and started entering in other sectors such as mining,media, information technology, and then moved their headway in the politics and government affairs. Gupta brothers were quite close to former President Jacob Zuma and it is said that they influenced various aspects of governance during his regime.
In March 2016, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said that Gupta family had offered to promote him to the minister’s post in 2015 in return for 60 crore Rands or Rs 375 crores. There are also allegations that Gupta brothers were using micheivious methods to loot the government treasury. These riots are purportedly an attempt to absolve Zuma from all his misdeeds and put the blame on Guptas, who have fled South Africa for Dubai.
This violence took racial turn when locals started attacking the Indians in Durban, which is home to over a million Indians and Indian origin South Africans. Indians started witnessing a massive surge in the attacks on their establishments, and apart from that Indian women have also been issued rape threats by some pro-Zuma rioters.
Why this is a BIG concern for Indians?
These violent attacks are indeed a massive concern for the Indians living in South Africa and Indian Government as well. There has been a massive appeal getting viral on social media, where Indians are pleading for help and asking Indian government to immediately take adequate steps to safeguard Indians and their establishments in several South African regions.
The United Nations has also came forward and has expressed grave concern about the violence that has been ripping the South Africa.
The other major concern is the anger shown by the local people against Indians. They are running lots of social media campaigns against Indians, which are highly racial in nature. They are sending rape threats to Indian woman, and targeting their social media accounts as well.
It has become an open fight between the South African native and Indians, and this can be understood by observing the social media trends and the number of selective attacks on Indians.
Several highly objectionable hashtags have been appeared on social media, such as “#indiansmustfall” and “#phoenixmassacre” that are designed to incite the violence against Indians and their business establishments.
Administration Failed, Indians are making their own security arrangements
The local administration and police has been quite overwhelmed and it is quite visible that their 25,000 soldiers are unable to quell the violence. This lead to the rise of another concern, the Indians are forced to taking up arms and make their own security arrangement.
Multiple Indian communities, which live alongside predominantly Zulu areas, have begun putting up barricades and armed patrols for fear of being infiltrated and looted by mobs. The Zuma supporters have taken a strong objection of this situation and they are labelling Indians as aggressors, and mobilizing locals to increase the frequency of attacks on Indian.
Indian Government has started taking diplomatic steps to safeguard Indians
Indian Government has also invoked the diplomatic channels and have asked South African government to take adequate steps to safeguard the interests of Indian in their country.
South African government has also deployed the Army at several places to curb the violence against Indians. In a statement, incumbent South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft. We will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these actions and will ensure that they face the full might of our law.”
Indian Community should be protected at any cost
The Indians have a long but complex history in South Africa. They came here in 18th and 19th centuries as servants, who suffered lot of discrimination and other sort of oppression. It was Mahatma Gandhi, who first time raised the issues of indian rights there. However, the fact of the matter was that Indians enjoyed more privileges than the local black Africans, and that is one reason why they encountered resentment from local Blacks as well.
Not many people will be aware of the fact that Indian community in Durban was targeted by local African residents in 1949, and a well planned pogrom was orchestrated against Indians.
However, with the time the Indians worked hard and established themselves as one of the most wealthiest ethinic group or community in South Africa. In many areas they hold more power than the local Whites due to their close relations with the political leaders. Though such close ties are not taken as an excuse to attack Indians, which is quite unfair.
The Ex-President Zuma has committed many financial irregularities and he must follow the legal sentence and stay away from making this an ethinic or racial fight among people. If any Indian or business establishment is responsible for any financial irregularity or scam, then law should take its own course and legal action must taken against the culprits.
Blaming an entire community, based on hearsay is certainty not a way forward. Indian Government should also treat this matter on priority, as such incidents pushes negative sentiments among the Indian living abroad, they must be assured by the Indian Government that their interests should be protected at any cost.