The article ‘Indians Benefitted From Apartheid’ that was published in the print newspapers of Daily News and then once again reiterated in the Sunday Tribune, has come under fire from financial institution, Standard Bank.
Satish Dhupelia’s social media post in response to the article went viral regarding the contents of the article that suggested Indian South African’s benefitted from apartheid.
Standard Bank had responded to queries from Indianspice in respect to the report released 10 August had been used in reference to support claims by third party economists that South African Indians had benefitted from apartheid.
The bank advised us that the report assessed, among other issues, how income levels of South Africans have changed in the recent past using publicly available information.
The Sunday Tribune quoted economist Professor Bonke Dumisa as putting this down to Indian South Africans “being less oppressed during apartheid”. Another economist, Dawie Roodt, argued “there were no grounds for Indians to remain beneficiaries of black economic empowerment policies”.
The bank strongly disagrees with this third party interpretation of the above-mentioned report. At no point does the report refer or analyse income pre-1994 (apartheid-era) and as such no comparisons were made between apartheid and post-apartheid income distribution.
The study by Standard Bank also looked at how income is distributed across provinces, municipalities/regions, race, and across individuals.
A response to misrepresentations by third parties in Sunday Tribune, Daily News articles
The newspapers have been called out on the article failing to highlight the report by Standard Bank had at no point referred or analysed income pre-1994 (apartheid-era) and as such no comparisons were made between apartheid and post-apartheid income distribution.
It should be easily understood that aggregation naturally masks important details in the data, such as South Africa’s proportionately large black population which implies that collective income gains are likely to be slower.
In 2014, the black population accounted for 80% of society, against 2.5% Indians, 9% coloureds and 8% whites. Constructively, our report noted that the aggregate personal income for blacks and coloureds increased by 385% and 439% in the period 1996 to 2014, even exceeding that of the white community (383%).
However, challenges to the misplaced inferences in the report are less technical, and relate more to the insidious suggestions that Indians harnessed gains from apartheid.
The contents of the articles that were published has generated a misconception of the banks report and positioning the bank in a negative light with existing clients and the greater South African Indian community with some calling for a boycott of the bank and some social media users intending to shut down their business accounts the bank.
WHAT YOU SHOULD READ:
Indian children growing up under apartheid found that their futures and prospects were deeply constrained by apartheid’s structural impositions: more often than not they grew up in areas deemed by the state to be suitable for their race – their mobility constrained as a means of shifting them out of zones of white commercial and suburban control. Indian children received inferior education; their parents were exposed to the brutal and dehumanizing controls that concretized the apartheid order; and their futures were fundamentally undermined by a system bent on benefiting one group at the expense of all others.
When the state offered a degree of compromise to Indian South Africans (as with the Tricameral Parliament in 1983), it did so with inherent condescension, and without relinquishing the vice-like grip on power and influence that was held by the white minority.
As such, the statement that Indians “benefited” from apartheid is in defiance of history and conscience. Indeed, it is defiance of the very principles of exclusion that Mahatma Gandhi railed against following his arrival in the country in 1893. Gandhi, like all Indians at the time, was forced to carry a pass, and in 1896 was witness to legislation in which Indian voting rights in what was then Natal were restricted. A decade prior to Gandhi’s arrival in the country, the infamous Law 3 of 1885 was passed in the area then named Transvaal, which aimed to demarcate areas to Indian families, and ensure that they were unable to own fixed property outside of these imposed zones of exclusion.
To state that Indians benefited from apartheid is also to deny that Indians were barred from employment in the mining industry, and were blocked – together with all “non- Europeans” – from walking on the sidewalks in what was then the Transvaal; from living in any area of the “Boer republic” (which to this day explains the limited size of the Indian population in the Free State); and from exercising the basic dignities which the “new” South Africa has enabled since 1994. It is to ignore the reality that the piecemeal approach by the apartheid state to offer compromise to the Indian community in the early 1980s came after a century of distinct and crushing oppression.
WHAT YOU SHOULD READ:
It is also in defiance of the words of South African writer, and a towering figure throughout the anti-apartheid struggle, Fatima Meer, who wrote in 2000 that “South African Indians participated fully in the drawing up of the new constitution and are today fully-fledged citizens of the country. They earned their right to this through their tremendous input into the economic and political life of the country and above all through their moral contribution in laying the basis for a just and humane society”.
These words were included in an article titled “Indian South Africans – the Struggle to be South African” where Fatima Meer speaks about the challenge of countering the ideas which lie at the heart of the misguided sense that Indians were preferentially promoted by a system that undermined them, and limited their potential for success.
Fatima Meer was one of many South African Indians that played a decisive role in ending apartheid. After Gandhi returned to India, having spent two decades in South Africa, his work was picked up by some of the anti-apartheid struggle’s most venerated individuals: Yusuf Dadoo, Farouk Meer, Ahmed Kathrada and Billy Nair. Meanwhile, others, such as Mac Maharaj, Laloo Chiba and Indres Naidoo, joined the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, placing their lives at risk to forge a future that would be commensurate with the ANC’s stated ideal of non-racialism.
Indeed, in commemorating the arrival of the first indentured laborers from India that arrived in South Africa in 1860, former president Kgalema Motlanthe implored us to reach a “point of maturity in our national consciousness” where the country’s diversity is a point of intrinsic strength, rather than the locus of division and friction.
The ascent of the South African Indian community since the shackles of apartheid’s restrictions were lifted provides evidence not of the manner in which this community was disproportionately promoted under apartheid itself (as some have ludicrously contended), but rather it is a signal of just how severe the curtailment of promise and prosper was for the Indian community under apartheid itself.
Kwazulu-Natal which is a melting pot of Black and Indian violence dating back to apartheid and colonial era; the Cato Manor 1949 Riots and then much recent xenophobic attacks that brought the province and country to a standstill stand testament to how division of country can start with unfounded comments.
Apartheid was, by its definition, a ruthlessly-enforced regime of race-based exclusion and segregation.
And the line that determined those who gained, and those who were structurally undermined were both crude, and simple: whites, particularly men (professionally), benefited – and all others were undermined. Though there were undeniably degrees of exclusion – and none can legitimately contest that black African South Africans were the most grossly suppressed of all by the apartheid state – this reality should not deflect attention from the base reality outlined above.
As the Standard Bank LSM study has shown, the Indian community has benefited from freedom – not from apartheid. This is a source of inspiration, rather than a moment for regress and discrimination.
WHAT YOU SHOULD READ:
- Standard Bank Economists – Siphamandla Mkhwanazi, Zaakirah Ismail, Kim Silberman
- Standard Bank Media Relations
- Satish Dhupelia
- Alushka Rajaram
- Sunday Tribune, Daily News