While 30 000 supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters descended on Curries Fountain in Durban for the party’s fourth birthday celebrations last Saturday, the South African Indian community came under fire and was lambasted by the party leader.

However, his comments were not taken lying down. Malema was condemned for his remarks, resulting in a complaint being laid with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

EFF leader Julius Malema (right), celebrates at the party s fourth anniversary celebrations at Curies Fountain last Saturday, with him is deputy president Floyd Shivambu and deputy secretary Hlengiwe Maxon

Many felt that Malema should be reported for hate speech after an apparent insult to the “Indians of KwaZulu-Natal.” Malema spoke of the exploitation of black people at the hands of Indian people, more so those who own shops. He also condemned the awarding of tenders to Indian families, though he was not specific about whom tenders were awarded to.

The SAHRC has confirmed that it has received a formal complaint against Malema following his controversial comments about Indians in KZN. The Commision’s Gurshwell Brooks said that they are presently investigating. “At this stage, the commission is looking at the matter to determine whether there is a case to answer by Mr. Malema.”

The eThekwini Municipality, the Minority Front, Democratic Alliance and SA Minority Rights Equality Movement have all condemned the remarks.

The EFF however, says it will not be swayed by public criticism following the controversial comments made by its party leader.

While his address focused on several key points, including that former president Thabo Mbeki  “coined two nations”  in South Africa, one that is white and rich and the other that is black and wild, Gupta monopoly capital, the secret ballot and land, public focus remained heavily on his comments about Indians in KwaZulu-Natal. Malema was also hard on private schools that were steeped in racism.

“We are not for any monopoly. Not Indian monopoly as it happens here in Durban. Not for black African monopoly. Not for white monopoly. So we must say that monopoly must be beaten. Here in Durban, here in KwaZulu-Natal, everything strategic is given to Indian families. Everything, big tenders are given to Indian families. They are the ones who are owning strategic things here in KwaZulu-Natal. We don’t have a problem. We are saying to them share with our people,” said Malema.

He said that the EFF was calling on Indians in Natal to respect Africans. “They are ill-treating them worse than Afrikaaners will do, we don’t want that here in Natal. This is not anti-Indian sentiment. It is the truth.”

The outspoken party leader said that Indians must  treat our people properly here in KwaZulu-Natal . He said that those Indians who own shops do not pay their black workers but rather with food parcels. He was referring to a minimum wage.

The Democratic Alliance’s Haniff Hoosen strongly condemned Malema’s comments, saying that the comments were aimed at racially stereotyping all Indian South Africans.

“The DA would never condone any businesses that do not respect our labour laws or exploits its workers. However, leaders like Mr Malema should be careful not to make generalised racial statements that serve only to fuel racial hatred,” said Hoosen, urging Malema to apologise for his bigoted comments.

Social media was on fire soon afterwards condemning his sentiments. Many said that Malema ignored the contribution of Indian people in the struggle and their political and social achievements.

Community activist, and the great grandson Mahatma Gandhi, Satish Dhupelia condemned Malema’s remarks. He said that if Malema has an issue with people being exploited,  “then that is good, because I and many others of different race groups are also against it.”

Dhupelia said that Malema’s speech at Curries Fountain labelling all Indians as those ill-treating others was  blatantly wrong.

“The fact that you still see, classify and criticise people from a point of view of their race is proof that the divide and rule policy of the apartheid system seems to have entrenched itself in you. It is what Verwoerd did, and we certainly do not want a replay of such rhetoric.

You are in parliament and a leader who has earned the respect of many because of your outspokenness on many issues facing our country. Instead of picking on an entire group of people as you did, I urge you to take action against those employers whom you found to be in the wrong   why you did not address the matter there and then at the moment you allegedly discovered such an issue, amazes me — as you have the stature and clout to do so,” he said.

He said the manner in which Malema addressed the issue accusing a single group served to create divisions that South Africa does not need.

Durban political commentator Abie Dawjee said that while dealing with the Malema speech, people should exercise wisdom, cool heads and a great measure of prudence.  “Malema’s main ‘crime’ was that he generalised. Perhaps if he said that most Indians are viewed as being racist there may have been less criticism. But in saying that those Indians who are not racists have nothing to worry about and he is addressing only those for whom the cap fits. That suggests that he didn’t think all Indians are racists. Are we going to gun him down for the inaccurate use of words?”  said Dawjee.