A Durban-based Muslim lobby group this week called on members of the Indian community to learn Zulu in order to break down cultural barriers and ease racial tensions. This came after controversial Durban businessman Phumlani Mfeka, who was recently interdicted from inciting racial hatred on social media, accused Indian business owners of assaulting and exploiting their black employees. LIZEKA MADUNA asked Durbanites what they thought of the proposal.
Nokthula Nkandi, 24, waitress, Inanda
This could be a great way of bringing together the Indian and black community [but it] might cause further tensions because Indian community members might feel like they are being forced to learn IsiZulu. It is unfair to call for only the Indian community to learn IsiZulu because there are also other communities with members who don’t understand IsiZulu, such as white and coloured communities. They also need to make an effort to learn IsiZulu in order for everyone to unite, even if it’s just the basics. The only way for business owners to show respect towards their employees would be implementation of a policy which states how an employer should treat their employees.
Nomonde Dubazana, 20, student, Durban
Logically, this is a good way of bringing different communities together although the people from Indian communities might feel that it violates their rights. Learning of indigenous languages should be something that people do out of their own will, it shouldn’t be enforced because everyone has their own preference. This call might have been specifically made for the Indian community because Indian people have a way of isolating themselves from other races. There are policies which indicate how an employer should treat an employee, but the fact that some employers still don’t conform to these can only mean that there isn’t much that can be done to ensure respect between an employer and their employee.
The majority of KwaZulu-Natal speaks Zulu and it might help break down communication barriers. Some people might feel that it is not necessary to learn Zulu, but we should take an initiative to learn it. But calling only for Indian people is unfair because everybody in the country should learn IsiZulu, especially in KwaZulu-Natal. Other communities must also take the initiative to learn indigenous languages.
Silindile Dube, 21, student, Durban
For whatever reason this call was made, it is wrong and belittling. In this day and age, people can’t be expecting others to do what they feel is right in order to bring people together. Learning indigenous languages might be a sound thing to do but it should be done out of one’s will not because somebody else believes it is the only resolution to simmering tensions between different communities. Also if Indian community members should learn IsiZulu, why can’t other communities [make] an effort to learn it as well, and why does it have to be specifically IsiZulu? Whoever suggested this clearly didn’t think of the impact it might pose on other people. This is not different from saying black people should learn Afrikaans in order to ease the tensions between black and white communities.
Mhleli Mkhize, 23, student, Durban
A call for a certain community to learn a certain language as a resolution to the problems is wrong. Yes, communities must find a way to come together but there should be a certain approach to resolve issues. Whoever suggested that this as a possible solution might have meant well, but the way people interpret it will differ. To me as a black person, it might sound reasonable but to an Indian person it might portray a different picture and I wouldn’t blame them. There are 11 official languages in South Africa and diverse communities. I don’t understand why it should be specifically Indian people who should learn IsiZulu and why does it even have to be IsiZulu. It doesn’t make sense at all and chances are, instead of resolving whatever issues are there this will likely stir more tensions.
Sbonelo Mthethwa, 23, student, Durban
There are numerous ways of resolving issues between different communities, especially if it is business-related unless there are personal sentiments involved. People cannot be told to learn a certain language in order to have [good relations]. If that is the solution, perhaps members of black communities should also put more effort into learning other indigenous languages other than their home language. This can only divide people even more because not a single person can be subjected to unnecessary bullying to fulfil other people’s needs. As for the good relationship between employers and employees, people should know that respect works both ways and everyone deserves respect regardless of their position.
Salina Ramadhin, 22, student, Durban
There is a communication problem between Zulu and Indian people because a lot of black people don’t know English; same with Indian people. It could be the way to bring people together and it is a good thing if we learn other languages as we have 11 official languages in the country. As an individual, I would like to learn Zulu and it is a good idea to encourage other people to learn it as well. It shouldn’t be about race but it should be about taking the initiative to learn different languages.