19/06/2018 04:34 SAST | Updated 19/06/2018 04:35 SAST

Malema Says Most Indians Are Racist. The Facts Say Otherwise

The Institute for Race Relations says there is no credibility to the claim that a majority of Indian South Africans are racist.

Julius Malema.
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Julius Malema.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has slammed EFF leader Julius Malema's claim that "the majority" of Indian South Africans "are racist", saying his remarks are not based on research or facts, but instead are meant to sow division and resentment.

Michael Morris, head of media at the IRR, said the organisation's research provides no evidence that lends credibility to Malema's claim, and that the IRR does not receive regular complaints from black South Africans about racism by the Indian community.

At a Youth Day rally in North West at the weekend, Malema alleged: "The majority of Indians are racists... they see themselves [as] better than most of us. Even coloureds see themselves [as] better than blacks".

"If you want to see that majority of Indians are racists, they are not many marriages between blacks and Indians. If you marry a black person as an Indian, you are rejected," he claimed.

In an IRR report entitled "Race Relations in South Africa: Reasons for Hope 2018", the organisation found that South Africans remain mostly positive about the state of race relations in the country.

It found that:

— 77 percent of black respondents have never personally experienced racism directed against them. The same percentage believe that, "with better education and more jobs, the differences between the races will disappear".

— 61 percent of black respondents now agree that "South Africa is a country for black Africans and whites must take second place".

— More than 60 percent of black respondents thought race relations had improved since the political transition, while 16 percent of blacks said they had stayed the same. The percentage of blacks who thought race relations had got worse since 1994 was very much smaller, at 20 percent.

— 72 percent of all the respondents said they had never personally experienced racism in this way. The proportions of blacks (77 percent) and Indians (80 percent) who gave this answer were roughly the same. A little more than half of coloured respondents (52 percent) also said that they had not personally experienced any racism directed at them, while the equivalent proportion among whites was a little less than half (46 percent).

— Two-thirds of all respondents agreed that politicians are exaggerating the problems posed by racism and colonialism in order to excuse their own shortcomings. A high proportion of black respondents (62 percent, or close to two-thirds) also agreed with this statement.

Morris believes Malema's comments are "nonsense".

"Malema is among South African politicians who, contrary to the interests of the people they are meant to serve, are far too willing to sow division and resentment through statements that seem intended to create hostility. It is also deeply insulting either to underrate the contribution to the fight against apartheid by the Indian community, or to suggest that Indians did not suffer under apartheid," he said.

"It is also nonsense to suggest that people of Indian descent, or any other racially defined group, collectively hold antagonistic or racist attitudes towards others. We believe Malema is often let off too lightly for using race to stir up antagonism, especially at a time when South Africa's challenges call for constructive leadership."

Morris said racism exists in all communities, but the IRR's research shows that most South Africans are "moderate and cooperative by nature".

Malema's comments come on the back of his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, calling for a senior Treasury official to leave a parliamentary meeting because he is supposedly "non-African".