ONE, among the many controversies surrounding the Gupta family is whether they are Black – in the South African racial classification sense that is. Many of their detractors point out that they are not Black but are Indians. Sometimes they are referred to as of Indian origin and at others, Indian-born South African businessmen. These are terms that I only hear used in reference to the Guptas. I have not heard of the Europeans living here being referred to as European-born South Africans or Chinese-born South Africans. If the Guptas were born in one of the other African countries, for example, would this question arise? I have not heard some of the Zimbabwean or Nigerian professionals who have taken South African citizenship described in terms of their mother country. In fact, there are those who, in private conversations say if it weren’t because we were talking about the Guptas, calling-them-out on their nationality would be seen as xenophobic.
Just today one of the members of Scopa, which was sitting to hear the Eskom Tegeta contract, raised the issue of whether the Guptas could be considered beneficiaries of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). In explaining why Tegeta, owned by the Guptas, had been awarded the contract to supply Eskom with coal despite the fact that it wasn’t on the supplier database, one of the Eskom representatives pointed to the fact that the awarding was part of the strategy to promote smaller black companies as part of BEE. The member of parliament tried desperately to push the question towards a racial classification of the Guptas. He pointed out they had come from India and could not be classified black. Eskom representatives wouldn’t go there suffice to say Tegeta had produced a letter with undertakings of how it would ensure it had 51% black in compliance with the procurement processes.
Minister of Higher Learning and Training Blade Nzimande this morning was reported to have said he doesn’t know why the Guptas are so lucky. “They left their home to destroy ours”. Just for a minute think of the minister saying the same about any of the European/Us -born South African citizen looters: These Oppenheimers, Ruperts, Rothschilds came here to steal our land and our resources. He’d be labelled racist if he even dared to pronounce publicly such statements. But more interesting is the fact that the Minister’s brother operates a printing house with apartheid-media, Naspers’ Paarl Printers, at Lebone Litho. But this is a story for another day.
For their part, the Guptas say they arrived in South Africa in 1993 and have since become South African citizens. They have since been involved in the controversy of their relationship with President Jacob Zuma and the narrative of state capture that has occupied much media attention and public discourse.
Race came with colonialism, then apartheid & lives today!
The Population Registration Act of 1950 required that each inhabitant of South Africa be classified and registered in accordance with his or her racial characteristics as part of the system of apartheid. This Act divided the South African population into three main racial groups: Whites, Natives (Blacks), Indians and Coloured people (people of mixed race). Race was used for political, social and economic purposes. Politically, White people had the rights to vote, access to state security and protection as well as representation in the National Assembly as compared to people. Economically, Whites had the privilege of having access to much more skilled and office jobs, and they had access to own the productive land and other means of productions.
If the authorities had doubt as to the color of a persons skin, they would resort to a “pencil in hair test”. A pencil was pushed in the hair, and if it remained in the persons hair without dropping, it signified frizzy hair. The person would then be classified as coloured. If the pencil dropped out the person would be classified as white.
Many decisions were wrong, resulting in families being split and or evicted for living in the wrong area. In some cases hundreds of coloured families were reclassified as white and in a few cases Afrikaners were reclassified as coloured.
Staunch Afrikaner parents, abandoned children with frizzy hair and or children with dark skin. They were regarded as outcasts by the biological Afrikaner parents. Once the law was implemented all citizens were issued with identity documents in which the race of a person was clearly marked.
South Africa’s Constitution
The South African Constitution provides equal human, political and social rights to all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity or language. All adult South African citizens have the right to vote and hold office. Section 9.3 of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa states that the “state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly” on grounds including race, colour, ethnic or social origin, culture or language. a subsection of the same section further states that “discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair” and sections of the Bill of Rights and the broader Constitution also states that ‘the nation’ is committed to ensuring redress for past racially discriminatory policies.
The question remains: Are Guptas Black or not?