Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Board member and anti-apartheid struggle veteran, Prema Naidoo, yesterday condemned Suzanne Govender, a now former ANC Youth League eThekwini regional executive committee member.
News of a Whatsapp message, wherein she is alleged to have used the word ‘kaffir’ to describe fellow ANC members, followed hot on the heels of another racist incident. Earlier this week, a video emerged of Adam Catzavelos making use of the derogatory term.
Naidoo was speaking in Soweto at the launch of a publication on the life of unionist and anti-apartheid struggle stalwart, Rita Ndzanga, produced by the Foundation. The event was jointly hosted by the Foundation and the Lawrence Ndzanga ANC Branch.
He stated that it is deeply concerning when a member of the ANCYL – an organisation that was at the forefront of fighting racial discrimination and apartheid – has a member who is accused of using the word ‘kaffir’.
Naidoo’s views were echoed by the Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton. “It’s perturbing that an ANC member – someone who should have been schooled not only in the policies of the party, but in its non-racial history – has reportedly used such terminology. The ANC’s core objective as a liberation movement was its fight against racial oppression. It is disappointing that someone who was serving on its youth league regional leadership structures is alleged to hold such racist views.”
He however commended the organisation for suspending Govender and indicating that a disciplinary hearing would follow, as well as the news that Govender’s branch has opened a case against her and would be taking the matter to the South African Human Rights Commission.
“While Govender has resigned – but has denied making the comments – we think it is essential that the ANC takes her to task should it be found that the allegations are true. Political parties must show decisive leadership on such issues when it involves their own members,” Balton stated.
“As we have expressed following the Adam Catzavelos incident, racism must be made expensive for racists. The Vicki Momberg case has set precedent in that racists can serve jail time and we urge the state to pursue criminal charges against these individuals.
“Yesterday, we heard from Catzavelos. He has almost skirted around frankly admitting that he is a racist, and has not told the South African public what he is going to do to make amends. With regards to Govender, should outcomes of the various investigations into the matter find her guilty, we hope not to get an empty, half-hearted apology, as we have seen in previous instances.
“What’s important about these cases is that people aren’t ‘just letting them slide’. Ordinary people are calling out racists and it is something that they should be commended for and encouraged to continue. It’s only if we tackle racists head on that we’re going to cut to the core of the issue,” Balton said.