Firebrand ANC youth leader in 'racism' row

20th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Julius Malema, the firebrand ANC youth leader convicted last month of hate speech, was accused by the country's Indian community of racism Thursday.

Malema, already the subject of disciplinary proceedings by the ANC, sparked the latest controversy with a speech at a Johannesburg shantytown about the rights of the poor to education.

"Your children must be allowed to go to school with coolie children," he told residents in the local pedi language -- a derogatory reference to the country's ethnic Indian community.

Amichand Rajbansi, president of the Minority Front, which represents the country's Indian community, denounced his comments.

"Mr Malema is doing great harm to social cohesion and interracial harmony," he told Thursday's edition of the economic daily Business Day.

The ANC is already holding disciplinary hearings over Malema's call in August for regime change in neighbouring Botswana, which he said had a "puppet government" that was "in full cooperation with imperialists".

Last month a court convicted him of hate speech for singing a song whose lyrics mean "shoot the white farmer". But he has been given leave to appeal.

The court banned the singing of the song, but the ANC said it also planned to appeal the ruling.

Critics of the 30-year-old firebrand leader say his radical rhetoric is in sharp contrast with his luxury lifestyle and love of expensive watches and cars.

But his calls to nationalise the country's banks and mines and seize land without compensation to hand to poor blacks has struck a chord with many South Africans who feel they gained nothing from the end of apartheid.

South African's Indian community makes up three percent of the population.

They came to South Africa in the 19th century, when the country was still under British rule, to work in the sugar fields but also as traders.

© 2011 AFP

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