Minority Front in hot water over 'racist' advertorial
The Minority Front (MF) will only accept responsibility “for the conduct” of its member responsible for writing an MF advertorial described as “racist”, said party leader Amichand Rajbansi on Friday.
The MF published an advertorial in the Durban Chatsworth Tabloid, titled “Minority Front guarantees houses in writing: A Rajbansi”, on January 11 this year, urging people to vote for the MF and ending with the following promise: “If the Minority Front gets the absolute power in Durban, we promise to give all the Indians a house who come to our office and leave their details.”
An advertorial is an advertisement written in the style of an editorial or objective journalistic article.
The MF advertorial also blames those living in informal settlements for a variety of crimes, including murder and rape. The language used plays on the insecurities of Indians concerned about crime. Indians are portrayed as the victims ignored by those in authority.
It also asserts that the MF is trying to keep Chatsworth “closed and safe and some double-crosser is trying to open Chatsworth up”.
The South African Human Rights Council (SAHRC) said in a statement on Thursday that the advertorial intended to appeal to the basest instincts and insecurities of Indian voters.
“The message conveyed is unequivocally racist and is intended to and does demean the dignity of African people living in informal settlements in or around the Chatsworth area,” the SAHRC’s Professor Karthy Govender said in a statement on Thursday.
It recommended that Rajbansi accept responsibility for the article, apologise unreservedly for it and acknowledge that it impaired the dignity of blacks, particularly those in informal settlements in the Chatsworth area.
The SAHRC accepted Rajbansi’s claim that he did not know of the contents of the article prior to its publication.
Rajbansi’s argument that the advertorial was sent from the office of MF councillor Minesh Maistry, an action for which he cannot be held responsible, was “untenable”.
“We are concerned about the tendency to shift responsibility to junior members and for leaders to only formally and, without consequence, accept responsibility in an abstract manner. It is thus strongly recommended that the apology be neither qualified nor attenuated in any way,” the SAHRC said.
Rajbansi told the Mail & Guardian Online on Friday that he already apologised and condemned the article on January 15. He described it as “racist”.
He stressed that the MF doesn’t “accept the responsibility of the article” but rather the “responsibility of the conduct of this particular person that wrote the article”.
“There must be a distinction between me as a person and the holder of the leadership of the MF. The MF accepts the responsibility of what has happened and I apologise again,” he said.
Only one MF official knew about the advertorial before it was published, said Rajbansi.
He said the person responsible for writing the piece, Sunbragasen Maistry, was a volunteer in the Chatsworth office and that disciplinary action has been taken against him.
The mayor of the eThekwini municipality, Obed Mlaba, took strong exception to the advertorial and said it amounts to hate speech, which serves to divide people along racial lines.
The message conveyed by the advertorial is that the MF is trying to keep the area exclusively Indian, the commission found.