Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Beta (son) you must aim for higher education" - an advice that Ramdhari Ragunath Singh took seriosuly

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

By Marimuthu Subramoney

"Beta (son) you must aim for higher education as this is the only way one improves in life."
This the advice that an indentured grand-father gave his grand-son, Ramdhari Ragunath Singh, on a regular basis when they used to work together on their 50-acre sugar farm at Redcliffe, near Verulam, on the North Coast.
Mr Singh, a former school principal and teacher who worked as an educator for 38 years, will celebrate his 91st
on October 25.
Born at Redcliffe on October 25 1920, Mr Singh, popularly known as R R, told me about his family's connections with India, his rise from a humble farm boy to a school principal, and his involvement in sporting and social activities in an interview at his home.
His grand-father, Mr Madho Singh, was a Sikh. He came from the village of Cholapur, near the temple town of Benares in North India, in 1890 and worked as an indentured labourer at the Waterloo Sugar Estate, near Verulam.
While working as an indentured labourer, his grandfather made some cash by lending money to his fellow indentured labourers.
"When he completed his indenture he used some of the money he had saved to buy a 50-acre farm in Redcliffe for two-and-half-crowns(25 cents) an acre," said Mr Singh who is still lively and sprightly at 91.
His grand-father married a local Indian girl and they had two sons and three daughters.
Mr Singh was the off-spring of one of the sons, Ragunath. His father and mother, Jugwanthee, had four other children - two boys and two sisters.
Only his sister, Mrs Nihaldai Goodie(86), who still lives at Redcliffe with her family, is alive today.
"My grandfather and my uncles and aunties used to work very hard on the farm. They planted sugar cane, vegetables and fruits. I remember when I was a young boy I also joined my grandfather reaping the sugar cane and transporting it to the local sugar mill in Verulam," said Mr Singh.
"It was during these times that my grandfather used to urge me not to give up on my education. He used to say: 'Beta, you must aim for higher education'.
"I will never forget his words of advice."
As a young boy he used to walk from Redcliffe to attend the Verulam Indian Primary School at Missionlands in Verulam. He completed standard six at the school and thereafter travelled to Durban to attend high school at Sastri College.
"I only completed standard nine and went back to work on the farm with my brothers and sisters. One day while working on the field, the principal of the Verulam school, Mr S R Maharaj, came to see us and asked me what I was doing.
"I told him that I had completed standard nine and at that I was assisting my grandfather in the sugar cane farm. He said he had a vacancy in his school and he wanted me to join him as a teacher.
"I started work at my former school as a teacher for five pounds (R10 at that time) a month. But while working here, Mr Maharaj not only helped me with my work as a teacher, but also encouraged me to continue with my higher education. I enrolled to study for my BA degree even though I did not complete my matriculation," he said.
In 1952 he was transferred to the newly-established Verulam High School where he worked under L G Joshua for a year.
"Then in 1953 one of the most famous principals, Simon David, was appointed to take over the leadership of Verulam High. I worked under Mr David from 1953 to 1959. This period was one of my best as a teacher. Mr David was a very dedicated and committed principal who wanted to his educators to teach and his pupils to learn. He took no nonsense and called both teachers and pupils to order when they transgressed.
"I remember once he called me into his office and said 'Mr Singh I want to offer you the position to teach History'. I said I wouldn't like the other teacher who also wanted the position to think I was taking his job.
"Mr David looked at me and said: 'Mr Singh you either accept the position voluntarily or I will make an order that you become the history teacher'. I had no option but follow the order.
"One of the pupils in my history class was Paul David, the son of Simon David. I remember Paul as a very bright boy who asked a lot of questions. Paul went onto to become a lawyer and become involved in the public life of our people."
From Verulam High, Mr Singh was transferred to the Madhosingh Primary School in Redcliffe as an acting principal in 1960. The school was built by his grandfather. Thereafter, he served as principal in several schools in Avoca and Isisinembe on the North Coast before returning to Madhosingh in 1976. He retired in 1979 after being in the profession for 38 years.
"My success in life as a teacher is entirely due to the encouragement that my indentured grandfather gave me in my early life. He was an inspiration not only for the family but also for the community as he built a school for the children of Redcliffe.
"He also did a lot of community and religious work. He made a big contribution towards the construction of the Shree Gopalal Temple in Temple Valley in Verulam."
Some of the other leaders who had influenced his life were A D Lazarus, Dharma Nair, Vasi Nair, S K Naidoo and Simon David.
Mr Singh also excelled in the sporting fields. During his days at Sastri College he played soccer and cricket. He remembers that he played football with a former pioneer of Verulam, N C Moodley, and Kista Naidoo, who at one time played for the South African Indian team.
He took a keen interest in community and social work. He served the Verulam Crematorium Trust as First Secretary; the Fellowship of Retired Teachers as First Secretary; the Verulam Diwali Charity; Verulam Football Association and the Verulam Cricket Association.
"We as people of Indian origin have come a long way since our forefathers came from India in 1860," he said.
"This is only due to the fact that our forefathers emphasised education and took measures to build temples, other religious institutions and promoted their cultures. This is what will keep us going for another 150 years.
"Without a decent education and being involved in our cultural and spiritual advancement we will be lost.
"But I am not too happy about what is happening currently. There is just too much violent crime and we live like prisoners in our own homes. This was not the situation 20 years ago. We all lived like one big family and everyone took care of one another. Today we don't even worry about our neighbours. It's a very sad development.
"Families are also disintegrating. We don't enjoy the extended family system anymore.
"But despite all the problems we have to continue to promote our cultures, languages, and religions," he said.
Although now in his twilight years, Mr Singh keeps fit by getting up every morning at 4:30am, then doing his Yoga and other exercises, having his breakfast, walking several kilometres, and returning home to read religious books.
"I have had a full life and have nothing to complain about. I stay with my son and daughter-in-law and they look after me very well. I am blessed. I am a proud descendant of my grandfather who came here from India to work as an indentured labourer."
Mr Singh, whose wife died some years ago, has two sons and one daughter, who has migrated to Australia with her family. His eldest son also passed away a few years ago.

Murders So Foul

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

Mr Soodama Ramlall, 81, and his wife, Bhana, 70, were two senior citizens enjoying their retirement years at their humble home in Valdin Heights, Verulam. Their residential area was built about 17 years ago and all the families in their road formed a closely knit community.
The Ramlalls' had one of their three sons living with them, while most of their other family members lived in the vicinity. They were comfortable and had no concerns about their safety.
But in the early hours of Saturday, September 24, they became the latest victims of the vicious and brutal crime wave that has engulfed Verulam and other surrounding areas. Some unknown animals (even animals would not descend to such levels) gained entry into their home and snuffed out their lives. Mr Ramlall, a paraplegic, and his diebetic wife were beaten with a blunt instrument, gagged and strangled.
The criminals then ransacked the house and helped themselves to jewellery, cash and electrical goods. There's no doubt that the criminals would try to flog the jewellery that they had stolen to people who place "Cash for Gold" advertisements on trees, electricity poles and other strategic points.
At the time of the tragedy, the Ramlalls' youngest son was not at home.
The Ramlall's son-in-law, Mr Radesh Ramchurran, who lives a short distance away, was the first person who rushed to the house at about 8am on Saturday morning after being informed that his in-laws were not answering the door. Ramchurran gave permission to members of the private security company, RUSA, to break the front door of the house in order to check what had happened to his in-laws.
"What we found was horrifying. Both my elderly in-laws were lying dead with pieces of cloths shoved into their mouths. They had also been beaten very badly. The people who murdered them had gained entry into the house through the roof.
"We are all shocked and cannot understand why they had to be killed. If the people who gained entry wanted to steal they could have helped themselves to whatever they wanted because my father-in-law was crippled and my mother-in-law had eye problems because of diabetes."
Hundreds of shocked relatives, neighbours and friends attended the funeral of the Ramlalls yesterday. They also could not believe that human beings could be responsible for such brutal murders of an elderly couple who could not defend themselves.
The murders of the Ramlalls follow the murder early this year of an elderly woman, Mrs Baker, who lived alone in the nearby suburb of Everest Heights.
The police say the Ramlalls have been "soft targets" and they are investigating.
But the question that most people are asking is: "When are these dastardly deeds going to come to an end?" and "How long must families of victims wait for the murderers to be arrested and brought to book?"
Since the early 1990s literally hundreds of people have been brutally and mercilessly murdered in and around the Durban-Verulam-Tongaat and other areas, but in many cases, families are still waiting for the murderers to be brought to book.
The people have had enough of these senseless killings and the authorities must be called to account for their failure to track down many of these murderers and to bring them to justice.
Enough is enough. The authorities must either safeguard its citizens or step down from their high office. We cannot allow South Africa to become a lawless state. The death penalty should be restored if there's no other effective deterrent. - Subry Govender, Chief Editor

Friday, September 23, 2011

From the canefields to great heights in the social, community and financial world for Tongaat's Balan Subramunier

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

The desire by a successful Tongaat financial consultant to be involved in the social upliftment of the poor and the disadvantaged has its roots in his early life as a sugar cane labourer.
When he was 12-years-old, he and his large family of three brothers, four sisters and mother found themselves in dire straits after their father died at the young age of 42.
Their plight was so heart-wrenching that they had to rely on the assistance of the Tongaat Child and Family Welfare Society and other well-wishers for survival.
"It's this assistance and help that encouraged me to become involved in social welfare, religious, sporting and political work since my early 20s," said 65-year-old Mr Pubalan "Balan" Subramunier in an interview at his offices in the Gateway business area recently.
Born in the Sandfields farming area in June 1945, Subramunier experienced extreme poverty from an early age. He was a member of a huge brood of three other brothers, four sisters and his parents. They lived on a "lease-hold" tin shanty in the farm and his father, Subramunier Pillay, worked as a sugar estate sardar and insurance agent to support the family.
"Although we were very poor, we managed to have at least one meal a day and make do with the barest of necessities. Most days our food consisted of mealie rice and dhall. In 1947 our lives turned upside down when my father died at the young age of 42. My mother then worked as a domestic for an Indian business family but the money she earned was not enough.
"My elder brother, elder sister and I worked in the sugar fields to help my mother. We had to work eight to nine hours a day for the 25 cents pittance we were paid. But because of the slave wages and grinding poverty we were forced out of our lease-hold house. We then moved to Diptown Barracks in 1958.
"It was during this period that we were assisted by the child welfare society. At this time my mother worked as a labourer for Tongaat Hullet at the golf course."
Because of the poverty situation, young Subramunier could not complete his secondary school education. He started to work in his early teens for a clothing factory and thereafter for 10 years did odd jobs at Wentworth Hospital, for a motor spares company and a scales company in Durban.
When he was 26-years-old he was recruited by a friend to work as a life assurance salesman for Prudential Life Assurance Company, which later became known as Liberty Life. He has been attached to the company now for nearly 40 years.
"When I first started work I became interested in the Tongaat Child Welfare and started to attend meetings. I used to sit at the back because I was still new in the field of social work."
Mr Subramunier has been with the Tongaat Child Welfare for more than 40 years and had served the organisation as its secretary for five years, vice-president for a year before being elected president in 1992. He held the position for four years until 1996.
"I stepped down in 1996 because I wanted to give the younger people a chance to occupy senior positions. However, I am still involved as a vice-president.
"Over the years I have found that I fully understood the plight of the downtrodden and the poor because of my own experiences as a young boy. I cannot forget where my brothers, sisters and I came from. I will continue to be involved in social work because we have to give something back to society."
Mr Subramunier is also involved with the Sandfields Temple, an institution "that is in my blood".
"The temple was part of our lives in our early years and at times I feel that I was born in the temple. After I moved back to Sandfields in the 1970s, I became fully involved with the Temple."
He served the temple as its secretary for 12 years, president for six years and currently was the Public Relations Officer.
He is also currently secretary of the Springfield Hindu Vernacular Trust, which owns the Sandfields Primary School.
In the sporting world, he played soccer for Young Callies, Hillview Rangers and was also involved in the Commercial League. Currently he is a patron of the Maidstone Football Club.
In addition to his social, religious and sporting involvement, Mr Subramunier became involved in the ANC in Tongaat after the release of Nelson Mandela and other political leaders and the unbanning of the ANC and other organisations in 1990.
"I have always been involved with the Natal Indian Congress and when the ANC was unbanned it was only natural for me to enter the fray and contribute to the transformation process. I also had the good fortune of meeting Mr Mandela four times. These meetings have encouraged me to continue with my work in the social and other fields.
"I was also influenced by Mr Billy Nair when he moved to the Tongaat area after his release from prison. My father, who was a supporter of the NIC, also infused some political awareness in me.
"Although I am a staunch member of the ANC I am somewhat disappointed that many of the current people are not following the values and principles of Nelson Mandela, Billy Nair and other leaders. The fraud and corruption has disillusioned me and many other people."
Mr Subramunier, who is the descendant of grand parents who arrived in South Africa in the early 1900s to work as indentured labourers, is proud of his heritage while at the same time emphasising that "I am first and foremost a South African".
"We have to strongly promote our cultures, religions and languages because without these we will be lost."
He has received several awards for his work in the social and civic fields. The most prestigious award being the Inaugural Mayoral Award for Community Services in 1998. In his professional life as well Mr Subramunier has been recoginised for his service by being elected as an official of the international life assurance organisation, Million Dollar Round Table, and the South African Life Underwriters Association. At the MDRT conference in Toronto, Canada, Mr Subramunier carried the South African flag during the flag ceremony on the main platform.
Mr Subramunier's life has been described best by one of his colleagues, Ms Shirley Hunsewraj, in a company newsletter. She said he was "a humble and gentle person who has been an inspiration to all".
She wrote: "Balan stirred in me a need to serve our greater community as part of our human duty, to strive towards perfection, to aim high and work towards those goals and never to lose sight of the greater person I can be."
Mr Subramunier and his wife, Sheila, have two sons and one grand-child.

Southside FM Radio

After nearly two years of hard work, Southside FM Radio Management Committee wish to report that we have been granted a community radio licence for five years by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa(ICASA).
The committee is currently negotiating for a frequency in and around the Durban area so that we could get started as soon as possible.
The committee is made up of the following members:

... 1. Mr Balan Govender, chairman of the Merebank Tamil School Society and an official of the KwaZulu-Natal Tamil Federation.
2. Mr Swaminathan Gounden, a former political activist.

3. Mr Seelan Archary, chairman of the Mount Edgecombe Mariammen Temple.

4. Mrs Thirupurasundarie Govender, a Tamil scholar and teacher.

5. Mr Richard Govender, a senior official of the Andhra Maha Sabha of South Africa.

6. Ms Keresha Govender, a cultural activist.

7. Mr Sagie Naidoo, a religious activist and businessman.

8. Mr Subry Govender, former struggle journalist.

The radio station will cater for South Africans who have south Indian-origin and Tamil and Telugu backgrounds. The radio station will broadcast from 6am to 9pm on weekdays and from 6am to 12 mid-night at weekends.
In addition to the music, news, current affairs, talk shows, we will also have special programmes for the teaching of IsiZulu, Tamil and Telugu languages.

The Committee has now embarked on a programme to raise R1-million so that we start broadcasting on a positive and sound note. As part of the fund-raising drive we have decided to register members from the community at a once off membership fee of R500. We will also speak to business members from the community and also hold a fund-raising drive.

Those interested in becoming part of our project and contributing to its success must get in touch with the committee members and send inquiries to the email:

Subry Govender

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Residents of the North Coast have had enough of the crime wave

The residents of Verulam, Tongaat, Ottawa and surrounding areas have had enough of crime

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)
On a daily basis South Africans have to put up with armed and violent robberies, car hijackings, hold-ups, break-ins and even senseless murders. This state of affairs has been on the increase for more than two decades and the powers that be have made repeated promises that they are taking steps to crack down on criminals.
But it seems their efforts are bearing no fruit whatsoever. In fact, the crime problem has gone out of control. The residents of areas such as Ottawa, Verulam, Tongaat and surroundings districts are being hit by a new crime wave. The criminals, in recent incidents, have held up and robbed guests at a wedding-eve ceremony in Parkgate and robbed some Verulam people visiting the Phoenix cemetery. They are targeting almost every suburb and township with impunity and the residents have no respite whatsoever.
The response from the police fails to infuse any confidence.
“We have registered a case of armed robbery and are investigating”, is the usual response from police spokespersons.
There’s very little report back that they are pursuing the criminals and bringing them to justice. More often than not it seems they just open a file and throw the document into a drawer where it gathers dust.
At times one cannot blame the police because they are just overwhelmed by the thousands of armed robberies, hold-ups, murders, and break-ins they have to register.
It seems were it not for the private security companies, there would only be anarchy and mayhem in our CBDs and residential areas. The residents would have no recourse to security and well-being at all.
Despite the problems the police face, the residents of Verulam, Ottawa, Tongaat and surrounding suburbs and townships have just had enough of the rising crime and criminals.
The authorities must do something urgently to re-assure the residents that they are taking strong action to rid the criminals from our midst. Anything short of this will only demonstrate that the powers that be care too hoots about law-abiding and tax and rate-paying citizens.

Monday, September 5, 2011

John Pungan - a direct descendant of indentured labourers making life easier for the frail and the aged

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

Growing up on a farm in Tea Estate, Inanda in a large family of four brothers and five sisters had not only been a lesson in self-help and fortitude but also a situation where the values of respect and care of elders was deeply imbedded.
It is this early upbringing that has stimulated Govindsamy "John" Pungan, the direct descendant of indentured labourers, to be still involved in community and social work at the ripe old age of 80.
Mr Pungan, a former educationist and school principal, is today the current chairperson of the Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre, an organisation that he has been involved in for the past 21 years since 1995.
"I have been involved in community work ever since I qualified as a teacher at Springfield Training College in 1952," Mr Pungan told Makhulu News in an interview at the Verulam Day and Frail Centre offices recently.
"I see service to humanity as service to God. We are born to make a difference in the lives of people and I will continue to be involved in social and community work as long as I am alive."
For Mr Pungan the Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre provides a service to the aged and the frail that is invaluable and beyond any price.
"We cater for 50 frail and aged people on a 24 hour basis and then have 89 people on the waiting list. We also have more than 520 elderly people visiting our centre on a daily basis. They are brought to our centre in three buses from all over Verulam and surrounding areas and are provided with breakfast and lunch. They are also encouraged to participate in a number of sporting, social and religious activities.
"We also have a geriatic centre where the elderly are treated. The Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre has become a major success primarily through the initial work by leaders such as Sunny Subban, the late A K Singh, S M Singh, N S Nandan, S R Lal Beharee, and Sister M Ahmed.
"We are a Non-Profit Organisation and rely to a very large extent on public goodwill for our survival. At this stage we need to have R250 000 a month to run the centre as an efficient and productive service."
In addition to the Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre, Mr Pungan has been and is still involved in a number of welfare, civic and sports organisations. They include the Verulam Child and Family Welfare Society, Verulam Blind and Deaf Society, Verulam Civic Association, Verulam Sports Council and the Verulam Bowling Club.
Born in October 1931, Mr Pungan was part of a family of five brothers and five sisters - all direct descendants of indentured parents. His father, Pungan Vellan, and mother, Thoyee, had come to South Africa in the early 1900s from the village of Thirvathiyan in the North Arcott District of Tamil Nadu in south India. They worked as indentured labourers for 10 years at Croonberg Farm and thereafter settled at Tea Estate in Inanda.
It was here that all the Pungan siblings were born. Today all his siblings are late except for an elder sister, Kamla Vayapuri.
"We had to work in the fields every day and do other chores from an early age. We used to sell our vegetables and fruit at the morning market in Durban," he said.
"But at the same time while we were involved in the fields my elder siblings and parents encouraged me to attend school."
The young man attended the Moonsamy Primary School and after completing his standard six in 1946, he attended the Stanger High School because he could not find space at the nearby Tongaat High School.
He stayed with some family members in Stanger and completed his matriculation in 1950.
He obtained his teachers diploma at the Springfield Teachers Training College in 1952 and started his teaching career at the Talwantsingh Primary School in Verulam.
He, thereafter, taught at various schools in and around Durban while at the same time furthering his tertiary education part-time through the former University of Durban-Westville and Unisa. His teaching career spanned 39 years and he retired as principal of the Woodview Primary School in Phoenix in January 1991.
"My involvement in community work began in the 1950s as a member of the Tea Estate Social Club, which assisted in improving conditions and also providing sports facilities at the Moonsamy Primary School," he said.
"At the same time I became active in the Natal Indian Teachers Society, South African Indian Teachers Association, the Teachers Association of South Africa and served in an official poisition at branch level while teaching at the Tongaat Secondary School."
After his retirement, he became active in social and welfare work in Verulam by being involved in the formation of the Verulam Retired Teachers Society, Verulam Historical Society, Verulam Documentation Centre, "Food for Life", Verulam Child and Family Welfare, and in other social, welfare and sporting organisations.
For his unblemished contribution to community work, he has been bestowed with several awards. These included the Community Service Award by the 150 Years Verulam Anniversary Celebrations Committee and the Presidential Award by the Verulam Sports Council.
Mr Pungan married Ms Doreen Samuel in 1959 and they have five children - three girls and two boys - and eight grand-children.
"We were both from different religions and to avoid any problems we had a court marriage. My wife has embraced the Hindu faith and today she knows more about Hindu rituals and practices than I do."
During the 150th anniversary observation of the arrival of indentured labourers to South Africa, the extended Pungan family published their own book to record their family's history.
The book, "The Pungan Family", according to Mr Pungan was written "in memory of all those who have passed on and created a link to the past and a bridge to the future".
Mr Pungan's philosophy in life is "whatever good I can do I must do it now because I will not get another chance again".

Are ratepayers and taxpayers being taken for granted?

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

For two Wednesdays in a row on August 17 and 24, striking municipal workers have trashed the main Wicks Street in Verulam. On August 17, the strikers carried sticks, toppled bins, scattered rubbish all over the place and even intimidated some street vendors. While all this was happening, police officers followed the rampaging mob in a police van. They did nothing to stop these lawless people.
Then a week later on Wednesday, August 24, a group of strikers demonstrated outside the local clinic, shouting slogans, trashing the street, pointing fingers at all and sundry and showing no respect for law and order. The strikers also prevented pensioners from entering the clinic to collect their much-needed medication. Once again about 40 police officers kept watch on these strikers.
Similar protest actions were also held in Tongaat on two occasions.
Law-abiding citizens, who pay their rates and taxes regularly and without any query, are deeply disgusted, disturbed and disappointed by the actions of these strikers. They are concerned that by trashing our streets, the unruly mobs are only adding to the problems that ratepayers and residents already have to put up with. The ratepayers and residents say the strikers have contributed to the further deterioration of towns that have been degenerating for sometime.
During the struggles against apartheid hundreds of residents from the two towns contributed to a better life for all. They did not struggle for a society where there would be lawlessness and where the new police force members would just fold their arms and do nothing.
Ratepayers and residents in both Verulam and Tongaat are pretty fed up and have called on the authorities to take action to restore the confidence of the ratepayers.
We all need to work for a society where our children could attend decent schools, where we could obtain decent health care in hospitals and clinics, where we could live in peace and security without having to barricade ourselves behind high walls, barbed wire and rapid response systems.
The fat cats holding high positions - officials and councillors - in municipalities must agree to earn a lower salary so that the other workers, like the strikers, can be paid a living wage.
If the powers that be cannot look after the interests of ratepayers and taxpayers, then many residents believe it's high time they started to campaign for a rates boycott. They want to know why must they pay unreasonably high rates when the Metro cannot even guarantee them cleaner streets and a healthy environment.
"We cannot put up with this disregard for the interests of ratepayers and residents any longer", one Verulam ratepayer told Makhulu News.
Many former comrades in the two towns who played leading roles in our struggles for a "better life" for all South Africans are also not too pleased with the current state of affairs. It was former President, Nelson Mandela, in 1994, after taking office, advised ratepayers to hold municipalities accountable for cleaner and safer streets and other services. He asked ratepayers to speak out very strongly if municipalities fail to deliver. It's high time ratepayers and ratepayer organisations took his advice seriously. - Subry Govender, Chief Editor