The Oriental restaurant in Durban's Marketplace mall offers a
scene that epitomizes Nelson Mandela's "Rainbow Nation" vision.
Indians, whites, and blacks sit side by side at tables while they
dig into plates heaped with spicy curries and grilled prawns.
But that vision is under some audible duress now. A new anti-
Indian song is stirring up racial and ethnic tensions here among
groups that eight years ago were unified in the fight against
apartheid. And the source of the controversy is also surprising.
Mbongeni Ngema is a noted antiapartheid songwriter and playwright
who has long championed a multiracial society. But one cut on his
latest album seems at odds with his past.
"AmaNdiya," which is written in Zulu, the language of the African
people who live in Natal, says: "Oh brothers, Oh my fellow brothers.
We need strong and brave men to confront Indians. This situation is
very difficult, Indians do not want to change, whites were far
better than Indians. Even Mandela has failed to convince them to
Mr. Ngema, who did not return repeated calls for this story, has
told the South African press that the song was intended to incite
dialogue about Indian-black racial tensions, not to stir hatred
Whatever his intentions, the song has been widely condemned by
everyone from Nelson Mandela to the New National Party, the remnant
of the party that built apartheid. Last month, South Africa's
Broadcasting Complaints Commission banned the song from the radio on
the grounds that it constituted hate speech. A lawsuit, brought by a
South African of Indian descent, which temporarily stopped the album
from being marketed and sold, has been found groundless by a Durban
Despite the official condemnations, however, the song has struck
a chord among many South African blacks - particularly here in
Durban, where Ngema lives and Indians make up 27 percent of the
urban population. Nationally, Indians are just 2.5 percent of the
population. Ngema's album has been selling rapidly since its release
in March, and bootleg copies have been making the rounds in local
"They [Indians] treat you like an animal," says Sfiso Ngcobo, an
off-duty policeman outside the Marketplace mall. He says the song
reflects the way most Africans view Indians. "Sometimes you try to
help an Indian person and they just think you're going to do
something to them. …