A group of experts have reacted to the claims on social media where South African Indians have been surnamed the Guptas – the surname of the controversial family closely linked to President Jacob Zuma.
To this, experts say referring to a South African Indian as a Gupta may not be illegal, but could be regarded as an insult.
A number of Indians living in South Africa are no longer comfortable with the Gupta family they are usually attached to.
A Port Elizabeth man, who was also called so but had since removed his post, narrated his experience. He claimed that a traffic officer who called him a Gupta could not understand why he took offense. The man said:
He said he called all the Indians at work Guptas and they laugh about it so he couldn’t understand why I was angry.
I am not a Gupta. I don’t know anyone with a Gupta surname and I am not associated with the family.
A University of KwaZulu-Natal specialist in participatory democracy, Imraan Buccus also said it’s really insulting to be called a Gupta in the South African Context
“It points directly to the toxic relationship between the government and big business. These interests work against the interests of the masses. So, the name Gupta has come to signify corruption and rampant looting of the public purse,” Buccus said.
More so, a constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said the name-calling was only insulting, it’s a “racial generalization”.
“It is very interesting because the Guptas have not been found guilty of any crime but have done things that have been frowned upon. So, it is obviously some sort of racial generalization. But it’s not defamatory and it’s not hate speech,” he said.
However, South Africa’s Human Rights Commission spokesman Isaac Mangena had said that the rights body looked to the courts to determine matters relating to defamation. But, being called a Gupta was simply a reference to a particular family.
“The stigma that may attach to a family by its name is occurring in some parts of the country on the basis of its relationship with the executive.
“The reference to persons who do not carry the name is, therefore, possibly insulting, but does not amount to hate speech,” he said.
Interestingly, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) who had first staged the “war against the Gupta family” has risen to condemn the acts of referring to Indians as Guptas. They said it was offensive to “reduce all Indians, even Indians from India, to the Guptas”.