Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ken Rajoo - a symbol of social welfare in Verulam

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

"I am a South African, not an Indian South African."
This is the value by which a prominent social leader of Verulam, who has served the Verulam Child and Welfare Society for the past 37 years, lives his life.
Mr Ken Rajoo, 73, a former educator and school principal, has been serving the Society in various capacities since 1974.
"I am of the firm view that although we are of Indian origin we are South Africans and as such we have to play our full role in the development of our country," Mr Rajoo told Makhulu News in an interview at the offices of the Society in Verulam recently.
"In the early days the Society, which was started in 1933, mainly concentrated on assisting people of Indian origin to overcome many social and economic problems.
"But today, since the establishment of our new democracy, most of our clients are black African people. Our services have changed fundamentally and we are dealing with issues such as HIV-AIDs and other social problems."
Mr Rajoo has not only been with the Society for more than three-and-half decades but has also been its president for 23 consecutive years from 1980 to 2003. Thereafter, he has served as vice-president and currently is a Patron and executive member.
One of his innovations was the popular Verulam Charity Fair, which he pioneered in 1986 in order to raise the much-needed funds for the Society.
Mr Rajoo's entry into the world of social welfare has its roots in the Mount Edgecombe Sugar estate barracks where he was born in March 1938. As a young boy he became aware of the suffering endured by the sugar estate workers and the conditions under which the workers lived in the barracks.
In 1948 when he was 10-years-old his parents moved to Verulam and during most of his teenage life they stayed in central Verulam.
After completing his matriculation at the Verulam Indian High School in 1956, Mr Rajoo attended the Springfield Teachers Training College where he obtained his teachers diploma in 1958. His first posting as a teacher was at the Jhugroo Government Aided Indian School in Ottawa where he taught for five years.
He, thereafter, taught at Verulam High and various schools in Laudium, Pretoria; Chatsworth, Phoenix and Verulam. After acting as principal at the Shree Gopallal Temple School in Verulam in 1980, he received his first posting as principal at the Madhosingh Memorial School in Verulam in 1981. He was then in 1982 appointed principal at the Everest Heights Primary School in Verulam where he remained until he was boarded on medical grounds in February 1994 after being an educationist for 36 years.
While being a teacher and principlal, Mr Rajoo at the same time played an active role in social, community, religious, educational and sporting organisations.
Besides the Verulam Child and Welfare Society, which he joined at the age of 36, Mr Rajoo also served the Verulam High Ex-Students Bursary Trust Fund as chairman; the Sri Siva Subramaniar Alayam of Umdhloti Drift; FOSA, Verulam Clinic Board, Verulam and Districts Senior Citizens Committee, Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre, Verulam Football Club and the Verulam Suburbs FC.
Mr Rajoo said before he joined the Society in 1974 he was inspired by the pioneers who mooted and served the organisation in the early years. They included the Mr Y S Chinsamy, Mr D V Moodley, Mr A L Narayadu, and Mr Joe Stephens who are now all late.
He said over the past 37 years he has served with a number of dedicated citizens of Verulam. They include, among others, the late Mr A K Singh (a former school principal and education chief during the days of the SAIC), Mr A N M Khan, Mr I Phlad, the late Mr R L Beharee, the late Mr C P Naidoo, Mrs K Nandhan, Mr B. Bhaba and Mrs R. Joseph.
Mr Rajoo said the Verulam Charity Fair, which was now the main source of income for the Society, had become a major attraction primarily because of the work of a number of people.
"For several decades the Society relied on donations and contributions by members of the community," he said.
"But this did not really meet our expenses. In 1986 we took a decision to hold a Charity Fair in order to raise funds. This fair has now become our main source of income. Without this Fair, we will not be able to meet all our expenses."
Mr Rajoo is married to Indira Devi, who has been an active member of the Society for the past 28 years. They have two adult children, Ravin and Sharendra.
For his invaluable service to the community, Mr Rajoo has been bestowed with a number of awards. They include two awards by the Verulam Child and Family Welfare for his dedicated service to the organisation. One award was presented on the 75th anniversary of the Society in 2008. He also received an award along with nine other Verulam members from Child Welfare South Africa for serving the movement for more than 25 years.
Mr Rajoo, who is at his desk at the society on a daily basis, is of the view that the quality of people who have served and still serve the Society and other community organisations would be difficult to replace in years to come.
"The young people of today are showing no interest whatsoever in social and community work," he said.
"I don't know what is going to happen once the committed people of today are not around."
He was also concerned about current situation in the educational and other fields in the new South Africa.
"When we were teachers the children had a great deal of respect for their elders and educators. But today there seems to be a breakdown in values.
"Then we have a deterioration in health and education standards and it's the poor and the disadvantaged who are still being marginalised. What we had hoped for in 1994 is not being delivered to the vast masses of the people.
"I am also very concerned about the extent to which corruption has eroded our government departments and the high unemployment rate is very worrying."
Despite the negative developments in many areas of life, Mr Rajoo is firm of the view that South Africans must rally together to help the poor, disadvantaged and marginalised to lead a "better life".
Mr Rajoo's motivation in the social welfare field is based on the life of an American sociologist, David Biggs, who once said:
"Money can't buy you happiness, but it can certainly allow you to look for it in the best places."

G K Moodley - a shining example for the whole of humanity

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

A former farm boy, who has been an educator for nearly 40 years, is still continuing his service to humanity at the age of 79.
In addition to the educational and religious organisations he serves, Mr Moodley is the life blood of the Verulam Hospice, an organisation that he and a number of other community workers established 12 years ago.
Despite his age, Mr Moodley is at the Verulam Hospice headquarters in Riyadh, Verulam, everyday from 8am in the morning to 4pm.
"It is the community that has made us what we are today. Therefore, we must serve selflessly till we go to the grave," an unassuming Mr Moodley told me in an interview at the Verulam Hospice centre recently.
The gentle and humble giant believes in the philosophy that "the world does not owe us anything".
"We are born to serve. Service to humanity is service to God."
Mr Ganasen Konapalan Moodley, who is popularly known as "GK", has come a long way from the farming area of Inanda where he was born on June 4, 1932. He was the eldest of 10 brothers and three sisters and belonged to a large extended family. Three brothers and one sister are now late.
Mr Moodley, whose parents were market gardeners, is a descendant of an indentured labourer, Mr Appasamy Moodley, who came to the then Natal colony from the Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu.
Although his parents were working class people, they emphasised the importance of education among all their children.
"All of us had to do our stints on the farm but for some reason or the other I was allowed to concentrate on my education."
He first attended a school in 1939 under a wattle tree in Inanda and, thereafter, went onto to complete his primary school education at the famous Moonsamy Government-Aided Indian School in Inanda. He attended the Tongaat High School where he was one of four pupils who attained first class passes in standard eight. Mr Moodley and three other class mates were accepted by Sastri College in Durban where they completed their matriculation.
He, thereafter, qualified as a teacher at the Springfield College of Education and started to teach at the age of 19 at the Tongaat High School. He was at Tongaat High for only one month and, thereafter, moved to the Doringkop Primary School on the North Coast where he taught for three years. Over the next 35 years, Mr Moodley taught at various schools throughout the province as a teacher, deputy principal and principal.
The schools include Wild Memorial and Moonsamy Primary in Inanda, Verulam High (which is now known as Verulam Secondary), Estcourt Secondary(vice-principal), S L Naidoo in Winterton(principal), Weenen Primary(principal), Deccan Road Primary in Pietermaritzburg(deputy principal), Stanger Primary School (principal), Chaks Primary School (principal), Chatsworth New Haven, Highstone Primary (Phoenix) and finally Mounthaven Primary in Verulam.
Mr Moodley retired in 1991 at the age of 59 from Mounthaven Primary where he served as principal for eight years. He was an educator for nearly 40 years.
"The standard of education in those days was very very high because the children showed a great deal of respect to their teachers. For instance, when I taught at Verulam High we had Mr Simon David, who as the principal instilled commitment and dedication among both teachers and pupils.
"I sincerely wish we could inculcate this discipline, dedication and commitment in our schools today."
He has been so dedicated to his profession that throughout his teaching career, he has not taken a single day of "sick leave".
Mr Moodley began his public life in the early 1960s when, together with other ex-pupils of the Moonsamy Primary School, he helped to build extensions at the school. When he moved into Verulam in 1972, Mr Moodley, who is a deeply religious person, joined the Shri Siva Subramaniam Alayam in Umdloti Drift where he used to organise the Sunday services. He served the temple as a secretary, vice-chairman, and chairman. He now serves the temple as a trustee.
He was also responsible for the establishment of the Verualm Retired Teachers' Association, an organisation he has been the treasurer of for the past 14 years, and the Verulam Historical Society, of which he is also the treasurer.
In 1997, Mr Moodley and a number of other community workers became involved in the establishment of the Verulam Hospice to help the terminally ill. After occupying a number of premises in Verulam, the organisation moved to their present premises in Riyadh in 2004. He has been the chairman for 12 years and currently serves as the HLVP of the organisation.
"We offer hospice palliative care mainly to those afflicted with the HIV-AIDs virus and to cancer patients. We have a dedicated staff of 14 people who are helping those who are very ill. Currently we provide assistance to more than 254 adults and 30 children from Ottawa in the south to Stanger in the north. We are an NGO organisation and all our expenses are met through the kind assistance and donations by members of the public.
"Providing this service brings immense joy to all of us."
For his community service, Mr Moodley has been given a number of awards. These include the "community development" award by the Verulam 150th Anniversary Committee; Paul Harris Fellow Award by the Umhlanga Rocks Rotary for his "good relations and fellowship"; and Shri Siva Subramaniam Golden Anniversary Award for his services to the temple.
Mr Moodley, who speaks and writes Tamil, said for him the adherence to tradition and culture was just as important as "service to humanity".
"Without our languages and cultures we will be lost. It's, therefore, vitally important that all attempts are taken to ensure that our languages and cultures are promoted."
Mr Moodley, who married Ruby Moodley in 1957, has five adult daughters, six grand-children and one great-grand-child who is five-months-old.
Mr Moodley has been described as a person "who has realised that his human life is constructed in such a manner that he has to perform actions that will make him move towards a spiritual destination".
Mr Moodley himself has taken a leaf out of the lives of great philosophers, swamis and spiritual leaders.
One of them is George Bernardt Shaw who once said: "I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle for me. It is sort of a splendid torch, which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on the future generations."
A person of great humility, commitment, dedication, integrity, dignity and honesty, Mr Moodley is a shining example of a selfless community worker, not only in the town of Verulam, but humanity as a whole.

National Heath Insurance(NHI) MUST as promised lead to quality health care for all

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

Seventy-year-old Mrs Kantharuby Mohanlall is a Phoenix grand-mother living in a two-room council home that was left to her by her late husband. She suffers from acute diabetes and other related diseases and does not enjoy the luxury of having any of her immediate family members around.
Her five children have all married and left home.
As a pensioner she is offered the privilege of visiting the local Mahatma Gandhi Government Hospital to collect her tablets once a month.
To do this she has to get up as early as 5am on the specified day in order to be at the hospital at 6am to join the queue to collect her medicines. The only problem is that the queue is so long and the attitude of the nurses and other staff members is so distant and indifferent that she only collects her medicines at about five or six hours after she arrives at the hospital.
Like Mrs Mohanlall there are thousands of other pensioners and less privileged who follow the same routine at government hospitals in Stanger, Osindisweni, King Edward V111, Addington, Chatsworth, Umlazi and other areas.
The quality and standard of service at these institutions have degenerated to such an extent that many people say when a very sickly person visits the government hospitals for treatment they return home in coffins.
It's against this background that one has to analyse and assess the National Health Insurance(NHI) that the government intends to introduce soon to provide universal coverage and access to "QUALITY" medical care for the country's poor.
Briefly in terms of the 59-page Green Paper released by Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsaoledi, last week all South Africans, irrespective of whether they are members of medical aid schemes or not, will have to subscribe to the NHI and will have to pay a certain amount, depending on their earnings.
Other main points include:
* The NHI will be paid primarily through tax revenue and mandatory NHI contributions. Contributions to NHI will be deducted by employers and employers will also pay into the scheme.
* Pilot NHI programmes will be rolled out first in 10 pilot districts (yet to be named) from next year.
* The public, who will be issued with NHI cards, will be registered from April 2012.
* The estimated cost of the plan is R125-billion in 2012, R214-billion in 2020 and R255-billion in 2025.
Since the release of the NHI Green Paper last week there has been mixed views expressed by commentators and those involved in the private health industry. While some have stated that once again the working population of five million will be burdened with yet another tax, others invoved in the private hospitals have welcomed the NHI and have stated they are willing to contribute to better health care for all South Africans - rich or poor.
But behind the thinking of some of the private hospitals is the opportunity to "cash in on" the billions of rand that the NHI will be dispensing to health care givers.
While one has to compliment the Government for taking the long overdue measure, there are many questions still to be answered as to how the Government will achieve quality health care through the NHI.
Minister Motsoaledi has as a first measure called for co-operation between the public health sector and the private health industry in order to ensure that the NHI is a success. His main concern is that the quality of service at public health institutions must be non-negotiable.
He said: "The challenge and intent of the national health insurance plan is to draw on the strengths of both healthcare sectors to better serve the public."
Despite all the good intentions, one just hopes that the NHI will not lead to nationalised health care where the private health care sector is reduced to the same level as the current degenerative state found in public hospitals.
The NHI must be able to adequately and properly serve the Mohanlalls, the Khumalos, the Celes, the Armstrongs and the Petersons without them having to wait in long queues for hours on end and having to put up with uncaring, unhelpful and arrogant medical staff. - Subry Govender, Chief Editor

Trashing of Verulam, Tongaat and Ballito totally unacceptable

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

After the establishment of the Government of National Unity in May 1994, the newly-elected President, Nelson Mandela, when addressing the democratic parliament in Cape Town, implored all South Africans to work together to improve the lives of the disadvantaged majority.
This was his message: "The cornerstone of building a better life of opportunity, freedom and prosperity is the Reconstruction and Development Programme. This needs unity of purpose. It needs action. It requires us all to work together to bring an end to division, an end to suspicion and build a nation united in our diversity."
He also said: "We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all. This is the challenge that faces all South Africans today, and it is one to which I am certain we will all rise."
This message was clear. All South Africans - including multi-national corporations, business enterprises, other employers and trade union organisations - were exhorted to work in unison to create the proper climate for reconstruction and development.
But, unfortunately, since the departure of Mandela in 1999, some of the forces, who considered themselves to be part of the liberation struggle, have displayed total disregard for reconstruction, development, and the general welfare of society.
This was clearly demonstrated this past week when trade union members affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers Union(SAMWU) trashed the main streets in Verulam, Tongaat,Ballito, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Cape Town and other areas.
In Verulam and Tongaat, the strikers toppled bins, splattered litter all over the streets and even roughed up street vendors. They had no regard for the ratepayers, shoppers and other workers. While they were busy trashing the streets, the Police followed them without taking any action to arrest the culprits and to bring them to justice.
One of the businessmen in Verulam asked: "Why trash our streets? We are a disadvantaged area and the action of the strikers is only further retarding our development."
He questioned the non-action by the police. "If we throw something in front of our shops we are given tickets by Metro officials. So why did the police and the Metro officials not act against those who showed total disregard for law and order?"
The businessman is correct. It seems the powers that be are sending a message that no action can be taken against the lawless who threaten, assault and trash the streets. They will only act against the "soft targets" - those who are law-abiding and pay their rates and taxes without fail.
Towns like Verulam and Tongaat are not first world cities. Trade union members, of all people, should realise this and should not be directing their anger in towns where people are struggling to make ends meet. Destruction of resources will only further delay the new government's stated aim to upgrade the lives of the disadvantaged majority.
There's no doubt whatsoever that the municipal workers deserve a living wage and they should agitate for this in an effective way - not by trashing the streets and behaving like hooligans. Ratepayers and taxpayers cannot be treated as if they don't matter as was demonstrated in Verulam and Tongaat this past week. The ratepayers of these towns have had enough of the degeneration of their areas.
What message are the strikers sending to the ratepayers and residents of Verulam, Tongaat and Ballito? - Subry Govender, Chief Editor

Friday, August 12, 2011

Emancipation of women is an everyday affair and not just a one-month "tamasha" in August every year

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(Aka Subry Subry Govender)

As the country celebrates Women's Month (the official Women's Day was observed on Tuesday, August 9), it's important to reiterate why the new non-racial democratic government decided in 1995 to set aside August 9 as an official public holiday.
It was 55 years ago on August 9, 1956 when more than 20 000 women of all racial groups staged a march to the former Union Buildings (now the new government's and presidential centre) to present a petition against their oppression and subjugation, especially the carrying of passes by women, to the Prime Minister at that time, Mr J G Strijdom.
The march was organised by the Federation of South African Women and led by women struggle leaders of that era - Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie Williams and Radima Moosa. The women challenged the idea that "a woman's place is in the kitchen" and declared instead that their place was "everywhere".
The "white" Prime Minister, Mr Strijdom, was not at his office to accept the petition but their action sent a clear message that they would not be intimidated and silenced by unjust laws. After the petition was handed over to the secretary of Mr Strijdom, the women sang freedom songs and shouted the slogan: "Strijdom, wathint abafazi, wathint imbokodo", which translated means: "Strijdom, you strike a woman, you strike a rock".
Prior to the 1956 women leaders, one of the women who embodied this struggle was Ms Charlotte Maxeke, who went to study science in the United States in 1896. Upon attaining her degree, she returned to be involved in a number of development initiatives aimed at empowering women. She organised and led the Bantu Women’s League, which was a forerunner of the ANC Women's League.
After the 1956 march, the next generation of women leaders continued to use the "Strijdom, wathint abafazi, wathint imbokodo" phrase to highlight their struggles against discrimination, marginalisation, oppression and subjugation. There were literally thousands of women who joined the struggles in a number of battles against the former apartheid regime and when the ANC and other organisations were banned in 1960, many of these women leaders continued the struggles inside the country.
While many of the women remained "unsung heroines" of the struggles, some of the women leaders who took the centre stage were the Ms Dorothy Nymbe(late), Mrs Albertina Sisulu(late), Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Professor Fatima Meer(late), Mrs Helen Suzman, (late), Ms Ela Gandhi, and a number of women who were associated with the Black Sash all-women pressure group. All of these women were banned, house-arrested, detained, denied passports and sacrificed almost everything for the liberation of women and the country from the oppression of the former white minority regime.
Today, 55 years after the famous Women's March in Pretoria and 17 years after the advent of our new democracy in 1994, the women, despite the many challenges, are making their mark and in many instances, even overshadowing the menfolk. But at the same time millions of women still have to face challenges such as customary oppression at the hands of their husbands and menfolk in general, social inequalities, continued discrmination, rape and sexual harrassment at the work place and being abandoned by men who father their children.
It's hoped that the celebration of "Women's Month" will lead to the highlighting of the challenges women still have to face in their everyday lives even in the new non-racial and democratic South Africa today. The struggle for women's emnacipation should not just be a one month "tamasha" during August every year but an every day affair throughout the year.
We have to remember what former president, Nelson Mandela, said when he addressed the first democratically-elected parliament on May 24 1994 about the rights of women:
"Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Leaders of "conscience" are vital today just like those who raised their voices fearlessly during the apartheid era

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

During the struggles against apartheid, we were encriched by the presence of hundreds of leaders of "conscience" who spoke out vociferously and strongly against the oppression and repression of the racist regime.
Some of these leaders who stood out were Mrs Helen Suzman, who for more than two decades was the lone voice against the ruling National Party in the then whites-only parliament; Dr Frederick van Zyl Slabbert, an outstanding academic, leader of the former Progressive Federal Party and Director of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative; Dr Alan Boesak, a religious leader, former black consciousness activist and patron of the United Democratic Front; Arcbishop Desmond Tutu, former leader of the Anglican Church; Bishop Reuben Philip, former black consciousness activist and a leader of the Anglican Church; Dr Frank Chikane, a former secretary general of the South African Council of Churches; Father Smangeliso Mkhathwa, a former secretary general of the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Conference; and Archbishop Denis Hurley, a former Catholic Archbishop of Durban and leader of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa.
These leaders of "conscience" provided the moral support to the thousands of other activists and the people in general in the struggle for equality and justice. They did not allow the oppressive actions of the apartheid regime to deter them in any way.
After the advent of our new non-racial and democratic society, most South Africans were of the view that there would be no need for leaders of "conscience" any more because the party that took over in April 1994, the African National Congress, was a liberation movement whose leaders had sacrificed their lives for the freeom of the people.
And during the first two five-year terms of ANC rule under President Nelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki there had been no cause for concern.
But during Mbeki's second five-year term and the current term under President Jacob Zuma, various leaders of "conscience" have spoken out against wide-scale corruption, police excesses, "Robert Mugabe", "Idi Amin" and racist tendencies among the Julius Malema types and a general decline in moral standards.
One of the former "conscience" leaders who first spoke out against these tendencies is Archbishop Tutu, who has now retired from public life.
There have been others as well but two people stand out.
They are social commentator and analyst, Mr Moeletsi Mbeki, and the secretary general of the Congress of South African Trade Unions(Cosatu), Mr Zwelinzima Vavi.
Mr Mbeki, who is the younger son of the late Govan Mbeki and brother of former President, Thabo Mbeki, ruffled ANC feathers last week when addressing the Cape Town Press Club. He said there was a steep decline in leadership in the ANC and the politicians running the party were an example of the decline in intellect and vision.
Among other things, Mbeki claimed that the ANC Government was not solving the economic conditions of the people of South Africa.
"What the government has been doing since 1994 is building a class of rich blacks and these rich blacks are taking a big part of our resources and consuming them, instead of investing them.
"Just like the National Party before it, the ANC has created a model that benefits only a small inner circle."
Despite being roasted by the ANC as a "doubting thomas" with "deep-rooted bitterness", Mbeki, 67, stood his ground. He reacted by saying the ANC had the mind-set of a one-party state.
"The ANC is such a dominant party they then jump to the conclusion that they are the cleverest people because they have the largest vote and, therefore, anybody else hasn't got any wisdom. So instead of saying what can I learn from the criticism, the ANC says this is an enemy I must attack."
For his part, Zwelinzima Vavi has been scathing about the "culture of impunity that has been on the rise" to allegations of corruption in the country. He has called for the law to take its course against Julius Malema, and for corruption within government to be rooted out without delay.
He listed some allegations and said the ball was in Zuma's court.
He said: "These are just a few cases in the mountain of allegations of corruption and abuse of public funds. The president needs to allay fears that we are sinking into a corruption-ravaged banana republic."
The emergence of Moeletsi Mbeki and Zwelinzima Vavi is a clear indication that we need as many "conscience" voices as possible in order to keep the democratic government in check and on the right track.
Any failure by leaders of "conscience" to speak out will signal the death knell of our hard earned democracy. - Subry Govender, Chief Editor