What’s in a name? A lot when you are called Gupta.
Experts yesterday said referring to a South African Indian as a Gupta may not be illegal, but could be regarded as an insult.
This follows several posts on social media in which Indians complained about being called Guptas, the surname of the controversial family closely linked to President Jacob Zuma.
A Port Elizabeth man, who has since removed his post, claimed that a traffic officer who called him a Gupta could not understand why he took offence.
“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, ” the man said.
Pamela Maistry said yesterday she was disgusted when she was called a Gupta during an altercation over a parking bay at a Durban shopping centre.
“When I got out of my car a white man approached me. He started to shout at me about taking the bay, which he said he had spotted first.
“He then said ‘you Guptas are all the same’. I was offended and very angry,” she said.
Imraan Buccus, a University of KwaZulu-Natal specialist in participatory democracy, said being called a Gupta would be an insult 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.
Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said the name-calling was a “racial generalisation”.
“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 generalisation. But it’s not defamatory and it’s not hate speech,” he said.
SA Human Rights Commission spokesman Isaac Mangena said the rights body looked to the courts to determine matters relating to defamation. However, 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.
The EFF, which has declared “war on the Gupta family”, said it was offensive to “reduce all Indians, even Indians from India, to the Guptas”.