However, Zuma himself has been accused of fuelling the outrage after white journalists were told to leave the off-the-record briefing hosted by the Forum for Black Journalists on February 22.

Ben Said, a South African television presenter who was barred from the metting, said he was "disappointed" that South Africans still felt they needed mutually exclusive clubs.

"I think more than many other industries in South Africa, there is a lot more racial mixing among journalists and we face many of the same issues," he said.

Zuma unapologetic

Zuma, whose ANC battled for an end to apartheid's racist policies for nearly 50 years, has said that he sees nothing wrong with the fact that he attended the blacks-only meeting.

And the leader of the Forum for Black Journalists, which was set up in 1997 to give African, Indian and mixed race journalist an opportunity to discuss common issues, agreed.

"I am truly aware that what we have done is not unlawful, it's actually enshrined in the constitution that we can meet the way we want to meet as long as we do not disadvantage those who are excluded," Abbey Makoe told Al Jazeera.

Public hearing
 
The South African human rights commission will hold a public hearing into the event after complaints from at least one media organisation.

"What it raises is whether, in a sense, is whether race is going to be a dominant factor as we move forward," Jody Kollapen, chairman of South Africa's human rights commission, told Al Jazeera.

"Or whether we can find mechanisms that recognise race historically but find way where it will become less of a factor in determining who we are, how we construct our society, how we relate to each other."