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Is Racism Still Rife in South Africa?

Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News, 2014-02-27

Racial intolerance remains South Africa’s most stubborn headache – with Mpumalanga and the Free State the worst offenders.

An alleged racist attack at the University of the Free State in which two white students allegedly ran over a black student Dumane Gwebu, and then beat him up, has again put the scourge into the spotlight.

Gwebu’s alleged assailants have been suspended from the university and are facing charges of attempted murder.

In Cape Town, a 20 year old Muslim Madressah teacher from Lotus River Islamic Education Society was brutally attacked by three white males for wearing the Islamic thobe and turban.

The teacher was also coerced into making blasphemous and derogatory comments about Allah which he vehemently refused to do… he would not forsake his belief nor blaspheme his Creator.

According to the commission allegations of racism make up 80% of the 10000 human rights complaints it receives annually on average.

At 74%, Mpumalanga had the highest number of racism complaints in the third quarter of the 2013-2014 financial year. The Free State generated 69% of racism complaints, followed by North West at 55%.

KwaZulu-Natal was the source of 55% of the complaints, Northern Cape 44%, Limpopo 43% and Western Cape 29%. The commission did not provide data for Gauteng .

Commission spokesman Isaac Mangena said: “The complaints of racism we receive vary, such as black people being called k*****s or baboons, or other racist remarks on social media.”

Mangena said that, of 233 racism cases the commission had dealt with between April 2013 and January 2014, 44 were in the Free State, but not all cases involved racism perpetrated by whites on blacks; cases of black-on-white racism made up a small fraction.

Last year the commission mediated in the case of a “racist” Facebook remark by 24 year olf  Zama Khumalo who invited friends to a braai to celebrate the deaths of 41 white children killed in a school bus accident at the Westdene dam in 1985.

Khumalo later apologised for the remark.

Political analyst Steven Friedman said the constant flare-up of racism in the Free State was a result of a conservative white community feeling that it was threatened by black people, who had once served them in their homes, playing a greater role in situations they deemed were the prerogative of whites.

“Over the past few years black people have become more confident, assertive and more inclined to express themselves, and that makes white conservatives very jumpy,” he said.

Could this explain why students at the North West University in Potchefstroom, used the Nazi salute?

Beeld newspaper reported that some students had used the Nazi “Sieg Heil” during an initiation ceremony.

Photographs were published by the newspaper showing groups of students at the University of the North West doing Nazi salutes.

North West Premier Thandi Modise expressed shock at the reports.

“It is disturbing, because this incident demonstrates that segments of our young, white people are still vulnerable to ethnic and racial indoctrination,” Modise said in a statement.

“As South Africans, we have come a long way, indeed almost 20 years to the day to bury the sceptre of racism and ethnicity in all its manifestations.”

According to the newspaper the university was investigating the matter.

Meanwhile The Higher Education Department says it will not tolerate any unconstitutional activities on university campuses.

Director General Gwebs Qonde says the Nazi salute by university students cannot be considered an innocent act as part of initiation.

Qonde says it’s universally accepted as a gesture symbolising oppression, persecution and atrocities and is contrary to South Africa’s values of tolerance and justice.

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