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Indian accused of racial bias

A Rajbansi is the target of ire of local politicians in South Africa who have accused him of racism and called for his head.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2006 11:42 IST

South African Indian politician has been accused of racial bias for allegedly calling on residents of a mainly Indian suburb to ensure that it remains in Indian hands during an upcoming election.

Veteran politician Amichand Rajbansi is the target of ire of local politicians who have accused him of racism and called for his head, the weekly Sunday Times Extra reported.

The furore began when an advertorial appeared in a community newspaper in Chatsworth, south of Durban, purported to be written by Rajbansi calling on people to vote for his Minority Front (MF) party in the forthcoming local government elections in order to ensure that housing in the area went to Indians rather than people from squatter camps surrounding the area who are mainly African.

"Our Indians are ignored," read the advertisement.

"They are still waiting while residents from informal settlements have been moved in.... If the wrong party wins, you will have shack-like houses next to yours with only a few Indians."

Rajbansi denied writing the advertorial, telling the Sunday Times Extra that it was "actually an irresponsible act on the part of a junior MF official".

The ruling African National Congress has called on Rajbansi, who is currently minister of sports and recreation in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, to relinquish his post in the provincial legislature.

Rajbansi got the position after he threw in his single MF seat, won in the last election, to give the ANC a majority in the province.

"The MF is attempting to reach out to the most backward and primitive urges within the community - that of race hate and 'us and them'," ANC Chatsworth chairperson Kellerappen Moodley told the newspaper.

Chatsworth was one of two huge townships created under the apartheid-era Group Areas Act to resettle the large Indian community of Durban. The other is Phoenix, next to the settlement started by Mahatma Gandhi at the turn of the 20th century.

Despite having mandate from only a small number of South African Indians, Rajbansi was once the most powerful Indian politician in the country as head of the House of Delegates for Indians in the tri-cameral apartheid-era parliament set up for the Indian, Coloured and White communities, but none for the majority Africans.

Rajbansi is an astute politician skilled at using his minority vote to ensure his survival in the political arena.

Political analyst Kiru Naidoo told the Sunday Times Extra: "Think what you might about Rajbansi's crude ethnic politics, he knows the game and he plays it masterfully.

"The greatest ambition for his brand of politics is to be the one-vote wonder to tip the scales in favour of one or other big party."

Naidoo said while the campaign by Rajbansi that plays on the emotions of the jobless and poor South African Indians might win him some votes, it would give rise to racial tensions.

First Published: Jan 16, 2006 09:46 IST