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'No racial hatred against Indians'

ANC leader Fikile Mbalula is under attack for his remarks on Indian students in the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2007 17:26 IST
Fikile Mbalula,race,Indians in South Africa

The youth leader of the ruling ANC, who was under attack for his remarks on the presence of a large number of Indian students at a University here, has refused to apologise for his comments.

Fikile Mbalula, president of the ANC Youth League, told the private E-TV news department that he did not promote "racial hatred" against the Indian-origin community.

He siad he was merely stating what he had seen at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban and that he was only voicing concern about the low number of black African students graduating with degress from the university.

In a speech at a youth day meeting at the University in Johannesburg recently, Mbalula had said every time he visited the campus he found that it was "more like Bombay".

The remarks had drawn widespread anger from all sectors of the Indian-origin community with people telephoning radio stations and writing to newspapers to condemn the youth leader for promoting "racial hatred".

The local state radio station for Indian-origin people, Lotus FM, held several talk shows on the subject. Angry listeners bombarded the shows with calls asking Mbalula to step down because he was starting to behave like "Idi Amin" - the late former dictator of Uganda who forced Indians to flee from the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Leading former anti-apartheid activist, Professor Fatima Meer, asked Mbalula to learn about how "Indians and Africans had fought the struggle together".

She called on him to publicly apologise for bringing the ANC into disrepute and for causing harm to the Indian-origin community.

A veteran freedom fighter and now member of parliament for the ANC, Kay Moonsamy, said he was shocked at Mbalula's statement.

"If he did make such a statement that would be an outrageous statement to make. He doesn't properly understand our country and the processess in which we are taking transformation and role of different groups in South Africa", he said.

The leader of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, said his initial reaction was one of anger.

"But after the emotions subsided and I reflected on the statement, I'm disappointed that it comes from a person with a position that he holds", said Trikamjee.

"His likening of the university to Mumbai displays his ignorance. He doesn't even know that the word Bombay is a colonial name which the Indian people have changed to Mumbai. This is nothing more than an attempt to make a populist statement," he said.

First Published: Jun 25, 2007 16:45 IST