In order to get a better insight into what actually happened in South Africa between the Black and the Indian communities which led to massive violence erupting and the riots which followed, GoaChronicle had a detailed conversation with Kuben Govender and his wife, Rochelle Tikai, who are Indians and live in South Africa. They provided us with the inside details of the whole matter and presented to us the accounts of other Indians from South Africa whom they know.
Rochelle started off by telling us that the riots which took place between the Indians and the Blacks were politically motivated. The government was incapable of handling the situation. Rochelle let us know that because of this incapability to deal with the scenario, the South African government then asked the ordinary civilians, who were not only Indians but also whites and a few of blacks as well, to stand up in order to protect the community. It was then, according to the orders issued by the government that Indians were supposed to guard their neighbourhoods so that the looters could not get into them. This was done because there was not enough enforcement of the law and there weren’t enough of police personnel as well.
As responsible citizens, everyone started guarding their people to ensure their safety. While the riots were gaining ground at a fast pace, the first two murders which had taken place were committed by Black people and the victims were an Indian pastor and an Indian mullah. This had happened at Chatsworth. After this, the Blacks opened fire in the Phoenix area, killing three elderly Indian males. All this was happening while the riots were going on. In the Phoenix vicinity itself, an Indian home was soon torched as well. In addition to this, other Indian homes were broken into by the Blacks and were looted. This marked the start of not only the shops of the Indians being looted but their homes as well.
All these incidents fanned a sense of fear among the Indians as the looters were now entering their houses and the looters numbered in thousands. Rochelle mentioned that the looters did not have one specific identity or description. They were young, elderly, poor, well-off, males and females all coming in together. This was then the Indian community had started to react in order to defend themselves. At this time again, the government had announced that the Indians and whites should protect their communities and for the others, a lockdown was asked to be followed. In the Phoenix area alone, out of approximately 2, 00, 000 residents, only 12 Indian youths were apprehended as suspects for killing Black people while standing guard. They were not charged of crime but were mere suspects.
These suspects were between the ages of 20-30 years and ordinary citizens who were not trained for a situation the Indians were facing. Therefore, the suspects felt that their lives were in danger and they reacted. As per Rochelle, it was the government of South Africa which now needed to help those suspects because they were guarding their community on the official orders of the government and were thus put in a situation wherein hysteria ensued. Now, two weeks after the riots have ended, all the attention has been diverted towards the Indians in Phoenix. The real culprits who sparked the riots do not want to get caught and are trying their best to hamper the investigation. And since the riots took place, the Blacks have been holding regular marches in order to “demand justice” for the Black lives which were lost due to the violence in Phoenix.
Once while such marches were going on, one specific man named Jackie Shandu who is an activist, and is an ardent follower of Julius Malema who is the President of the political party “Economic Freedom Fighters” (EFF); made a racist remark saying, “One Indian, one bullet; one settler, one bullet”, wherein “settler” stands for the whites along with mentioning Indians. Although Jackie Shandu has since retracted that statement and has apologized, he has already egged on his followers to kill Indians and whites in South Africa.
“Indian lives mean nothing in South Africa”, said Rochelle. During the riots, a 17 year old Indian boy was shot dead by a Black perpetrator but not a single suspect has been apprehended till now.
The government always does things in the best interest of the Black race. Indians are being killed regularly by the ruthless murders but not even the bare minimum is done in order to nab the criminals. For instance, two Indian males, who used to help people from the Black community and even coached their kids in certain sporting activities, were beaten to death by the very same Blacks. This act clearly highlights that whatever little peace was to be found among the Indians and blacks of South Africa earlier has vanished in thin air. The next day, the police made a statement saying that the lynching of the Indian males was “not racially motivated”. “How did they come up with such a conclusion so fast?” asked Rochelle.
Since then, many Indians have been singled out and killed by the Blacks. Now, as the schools are open, the Blacks have started making death threats against the Indian children as they would need to leave their houses and go to their schools.
Kuben Govender clarified that such riots were not something which had erupted all of a sudden. This was something well planned and well orchestrated by political parties. In South Africa, Indians have been suffering for long now. 90% of the jobs are given out to the African people. And the money with which the Indians are left is getting exhausted due to high taxes and bills. On the other hand, the blacks are provided with free electricity, free land and free water supply in their townships. “Minority races are being oppressed by the Black government here”, he added. He cited the incident of his 78 year old uncle who was shot dead by Black criminals. “We did not come here to be killed because we have a specific skin colour”, said Kuben.
He mentioned that Indians were facing a tough time in South Africa and how the Blacks now wanted to take everything from the whites and Indians because they thought that the other two communities were more privileged but that was surely not the case. The Indians at South Africa have always worked hard in all circumstances to make a living and fulfill their needs; they were never “given” anything. Julius Malema of the EFF now emphasizes that Indians were provided with everything and they must go back to their nation. He constantly incites the Blacks against the Indians and whites. He added how on Saturday, two Indian bus drivers were caught by Black criminals and were assaulted. Back in 1949, when Blacks had started looting Indian shops at Durban Central, they were instigated to go and attack Indians and innumerable Indians were slaughtered to death. Yet, no Indian had come out to say that Blacks should have been killed.
Something similar had happened in 1985 as well and back then, Kuben mentioned, Indians, including Rochelle’s mother, were kicked out of their houses and the homes were set on fire. The Mahatma Gandhi settlement was destroyed, burned and razed to the ground.
This time too, the Indians were attacked inside their residential area by the Blacks. If the Blacks would not have entered Phoenix, all this would not have happened. The Indian civilians were merely defending themselves and their brethren at a time when the government provided absolutely no help to them in order to protect them. Kuben added how it was necessary on the part of the government to nip everything in the bud back when Julius Malema had started instigating the Blacks and making hate speeches against the Indians and whites. But the government allowed everything and as a result, their followers toed their line. Malema has been inciting the Blacks for quite a few years now and had begun with the whites. He had said that the Blacks should have killed the whites, rape their women and mince their children in order to usurp their land. White farmers are being killed in South Africa regularly and they are the ones who provide the country with food.
As per Malema, Indians who hire Blacks as domestic help or other workers pay minimal wages to the Blacks. “We Indians earn little here and still generate employment for the Blacks. And they work for us on their own free will. We never held a gun to their heads in order to make them work for us”, added Kuben. The Blacks who work for the Indians and earn money, later go to Malema and he in turn, posts inciting videos on social media. Julius emphasizes that Indians should be kicked out of the country and their homes should be taken away. The South African government sees what happens but chooses to keep quiet. Everything spread like wildfire after Julius Malema began with his nefarious activities. “It is now essential on the part of the Indian government to help and protect us”, mentioned Kuben.
“If there is no intervention by the Indian government, Indians in South Africa will be wiped out”, said Rochelle.