Durban, May 8 (IANS) The Indian-origin mayor of a South African town has said that he would claim damages from an officer for subjecting him to a racism slur.
Afzul Rehman, the mayor of Newcastle in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province, has alleged that the officer in the town's Road Transport Inspectorate (RTI) had called him a 'Gupta' in reference to a recent controversy-ridden wedding in an India-origin family in the country who go by the surname of Gupta, according to local media.
Rehman said the officer also told him to return to India if he was offended.
The wedding in the influential politically-connected Gupta family earlier this month had been thrust into controversy after a chartered plane carrying guests from India for the event landed at an air force base at Waterkloof near Pretoria without anyone knowing who gave the permission.
There were also reports that the guests were taken from the air base to the wedding venue in Sun City in a cavalcade of blue-lighted cars and that the hosts only wanted white staff to attend to the guests.
The incident involving Rehman occurred May 3, the last day of the four-day wedding, when it was in the national headlines for all the wrong reasons.
According to the mayor, he had gone to the RTI office to renew his driving licence when the officer accosted him and said: "Hey Gupta, what are you doing here?"
Initially, Rehman did not reply and smiled, but the officer went to a nearby room and continued to make fun of him among his colleagues.
The officer came and called Rehman a Gupta a second time. Offended, Rehman asked the officer if he did not know who he was, and the latter reportedly replied: "Yes, I know, you are a Gupta."
When a shocked Rehman said that he was offended and deemed the comments racist, the officer said: "You can go back to India and take offence. Here in South Africa this country belongs to us."
Even when a security official told the officer that Rehman was the town's mayor, the offender remained undeterred and said: "He may be the mayor in town, but this is our territory."
Rehman said that though he had initially decided to let the matter go after discussing it with local RTI head, he later decided otherwise as he felt this was an opportunity to teach civil servants that they needed to respect the public, the Independent Online reported.
Rehman later filed a charge of crimen injuria in a local police station and said he would refer the matter to the equality court and the human rights commission. Under South African law, crimen injuria is defined as an act of unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of a person.
Rehman also said that he was speaking to an attorney to take the matter to the high court.