Lost in translation

Sashni Pather

Sashni Pather

On the same day the labour minister made the controversial "What I know is that coloureds don't speak Chinese" remark, he had issued a statement welcoming the Pretoria High Court's ruling declaring South African Chinese previously disadvantaged.

In a statement to the Chinese Association of South Africa, on June 24, Membathisi Mdladlana said: "In my respectful view, the decision taken by my ministry and by the other ministries party to the application, is the correct decision."

Mdladlana was referring to the labour ministry's decision not to oppose the Chinese Association's application to the High Court.

That same day he told a press conference: "They can speak Chinese, of course, in their homes. I have absolutely no difficulty with that. But when we visit them, they must also remember that they are now coloureds. What I know is that coloureds don't speak Chinese."

Mdladlana later defended himself in Parliament for the statement which was widely slammed as racist.

In his statement to the Chinese Association he said: "There is no need to change the legislation because Chinese people who were victims of apartheid at the material time fall within the definition of 'black people' and therefore the legislation remains in tact and of application."

He also said that opposing the application would have been too costly.

Black business groupings have vowed to fight the reclassification of South African Chinese as coloured, which allows them to qualify for empowerment deals.

The National African Federated Chamber of Commerce claims the BEE "cake" is too small to share with local Chinese.