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Women’s rights activist Rita Abraham voices concern over uneasy peace in South Africa

It’s been over two weeks since the violence in South Africa has improved after 25,000 soldiers were brought to assist the police in bringing back order and security.
“But South Africans of Indian descent are still in fear of mob violence as threats escalate on social media, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, the province which has a large population of Indian origin,” said Rita Abraham, a Durban-based co-ordinator of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (Gopio) International for Africa. Like many other PIOs in South Africa, Abraham traces her roots to indentured labourers who left Kolkata port and arrived in South Africa via the ships Belvedere and Truro over 150 years back.
An entrepreneur who runs her own broking firm called SA Insurance Brokers, she is also a social activist who works for women’s rights as well as against human trafficking in Africa and is the founder of an organisation, South African Women’s Forte, which works towards empowering women.
Abraham believes that the widespread violence and looting in South Africa earlier this month were deliberate and a well-planned, coordinated attack on the country’s democracy and rule of law. “The incidents of violence started just after our former president Jacob Zuma surrendered himself to the South African police following a warrant for his arrest. During the attacks, there were attempts to inflame violent racial tension,” she explained.
However, widespread hunger, poverty, frustration and lack of socio-economic development over the years are also underlying reasons for the violent attacks in her opinion. “We know the poor and the hungry exist in SA and the state should have done more to alleviate the miserable conditions faced by the average South African. It’s unfortunate that hungry people become violent looters, leading to innocent lives being lost.”
She is also concerned about the future. “I believe that the civil unrest evolved into lawlessness, looting and attacks on civilians. If the underlying problems are not remedied, we could see a repetition of the quest to end injustice, economic disparity and poverty,” Abraham said.
While she received many messages of concern from her friends and extended family members in India during the violence, Abraham notes that no one from the Indian government has officially reached out to support the South African community of Indian descent. The Indian Diaspora Council, a global organisation which represents people of Indian origin, has, however, started discussions with several groups in South Africa to voice the concerns of the people of Indian origin.

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