It is fine for the Indian Diaspora to celebrate their unique culture as it contributes to the development of the other communities in their home countries as well, premier of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa has said.
Zweli Mkhize was speaking at the closing ceremony of the four-day 10th conference of the Global Organisation for People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) yesterday, which brought together delegates from a dozen countries to debate a series of papers on diverse issues.
"It was wise of the Indian Diaspora to integrate into their (local) communities. We support GOPIO as a forum for people of Indian origin outside India to come together and share experiences -- both within their own community and those that they are part of (in their home countries)," Mkhize said.
Mkhize emphasized that the Indian community which celebrated 150 years of being in South Africa later this year had played a significant role in the economic life of the nation.
"There is no doubt that Indians are South Africans who shared the pain, suffering and humiliation of oppression (by a white minority). They have made a huge contribution to our country and have ascended to the highest levels in all fields, with their share of heroes and martyrs, like the other communities in South Africa."
The premier explained how the close cooperation between the Zulu people and the early Indian settlers had been a resultant of British colonialism.
"The British could not conquer the Zulu Kingdom at that time or get (indigenous) labour for the sugar cane plantations, which is why they brought in the Indian indentured labourers. They placed a high value on education and evolved from immigrants to become leaders in South Africa."
Mkhize also said that Mahatma Gandhi had volunteered as a stretcher-bearer in the war between the British and the Zulu Kingdom, reinforcing the supremacy of peace and tolerance.
Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini, speaking on the occasion, lauded the country's Indian community for their humanitarian efforts in assisting underprivileged in the country.
"I know my brothers and sisters from India make means to support and help the poor in our country, the king said.
"GOPIO is also applauded for organising a group of people who are committed to alleviating poverty", Zwelithini said.
Paying tribute to veteran activist and sociologist Prof Fatima Meer, who died last month, Zwelithini said she was the embodiment of the values of GOPIO, as she too stood for justice and equality at all times, especially in the promotion of human rights internationally.