DA condemns “racist” Facebook post referring to Indians as “coolies”

The user lashed out at loud Diwali celebrations and called the people letting off fireworks “coolies” – a highly derogatory remark.



The Democratic Alliance have blasted a Facebook post that emerged over the weekend, with one user referring to Indians as “coolies”.

Johan Olivier made the post on social media when he was upset by the number of fireworks being let-off in celebration of Diwali. He’d complained that the loud noises were upsetting his dogs, before using the offensive term to describe those celebrating the festival:

Facebook post sparks ire with “coolies” slur

Olivier’s spelling differs from the widely-established “coolies”. (Supplied)

Oliver also used the phrase “vaalie”, which is used to identify inland tourists.

DA KZN Premier Candidate Zwakele Mncwango moved to condemn the post, shedding light on what is perhaps one of the more little-known racial slurs in South Africa. He labelled the sentiments as “malicious and hateful”, before stating that religious intolerance “has no place” in our society:

“Not only are the views shared in that post malicious, they are also hateful to Indians and their culture. The antagonist uses derogatory names to describe people of Indian origin. The language used to denigrate Indian culture and religion is appalling.”

“Racists have no place in our constitutional democracy. South Africa is still guided by the vision that the country belongs to all who live in it. Toxic attitudes of racial and religious intolerance have no place in our democracy.”

Where does the word “coolie” come from?

Responsible for many historical evils, colonialism gave birth to this particular slur. It was coined at some point during the 19th century, to refer to unskilled labour workers from Asia. Chinese, Japanese and Indian citizens were often made to work long hours for very little pay, at the behest of the British Empire.

It has its roots in the language of Hindi, where “coolies” literally translates to “hired workers”. Unfortunately, the negative connotations of this word – related to class and social standing – became an insult in Mzansi, specifically referring to all citizens of Indian descent.

You may – or may not – be surprised to hear that Julius Malema got into a bit of trouble using this word back in 2011. The ANC was asked to act against their then-Youth League president after BusinessDay reported he told supporters the following at a rally:

“Bana ba lena ba tshwanetše ba dumelelwe gore ba tsene sekolo le bana ba makula mona [your children must be allowed to go to school with coolie children].”