OUR RICH HISTORY - BILLY NAIR
One of the doyens of the liberation struggles was Billy Nair, the son of indentured labourers, who was imprisoned on Robben Island for 20 years for fighting against white minority rule and domination. After his death at the age of 79 on October 23 2008, Subry Govender compiled a three-part series as a special tribute in honour of this struggle icon.
We publish the three reports as part of our information for those who are interested in learning about OUR RICH HISTORY. This is Part 1......
BILLY NAIR - A STRUGGLE STALWART WHO SACRIFICED 60 YEARS OF HIS LIFE FOR OUR FREEDOM
"What you find in South Africa here today is a serious conflict between the minority ruling class and those fighting for democracy, non-racialisism, for freedom for a non-racial and free South Africa."
Billy Nair, who was 79-years-old when he passed away on October 23 in 2008, had said this when he addressed a protest meeting at the former University of Durban-Westville in August 1985 - only a year after being released from Robben Island after being imprisoned for 20 years.
He had re-integrated himself into the liberation struggles despite the heavy hand of the former regime in trying to silence and wipe out all activists at that time.
At this time students and pupils all over the country had risen in unision, not only demanding the release of political prisoners like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and Govan Mbeki, but also for political freedom and equality for all South Africans.
"SOUTH AFRICA IS ON FIRE"
In his speech, Nair did not pull any punches.
"As a matter of fact South Africa is on fire and the cause of it is the Pretoria regime," he told the militant students.
He added: "And we also want to warn that those who bolster the Pretoria regime in the name of the Rajbansis, Hendrickses and the Matanzimas, Sebes and other racketeers are co-responsible for the state of affairs in this country.
"Now the question that arises is is South Africa normal? Is it normal when you have insane men sitting in power dividing the country into bantustans, into Indians, Hindustans and what have you."
Who was this fire-brand who sacrificed nearly 60 years of his life for the freedom and the non-racial society that we enjoy today?
PARENTS - INDENTURED LABOURERS FROM COCHIN IN INDIA
Nair was born in Sydenham, Durban on 27 November 1929 to parents who came from the Cochin district of Kerala in south India.
While still a teenager, he became aware of the plight of the poor and the oppressed. He became a trade union leader and over the years involved himself in the Natal Indian Congress, the ANC, the South African Congress of Trade Unions and after his release in the United Democratic Front.
The meeting he addressed at the University of Durban-Westville in August 1985 was called to inform the minorty regime that South Africans would not submit to defeat despite the violence of the state. Billy Nair was the main speaker and he gave the students and others who attended a lesson in history about the confict in the country at that time.
"What you find in South Africa here today a serious conflict between the minority ruling class and the rest of the populace, those fighting for democracy, non-racialisism, for freedom for a non-racial and free South Africa. A minority clique is perpetuating a system of apartheid where a minority of minorities sits in power and rules over the majority.
"Now this serious division between the two is actually the cause of the crisis in the country. Now we the people, the oppressed, have been supported in the past and are still being supported by the entire civilised world."
NON-RACIAL SOCIETY FOR ALL
Billy Nair, not cowed by 20 years of imprisonment on Robben Island, told the young students that if there was no change, there would only be disaster.
"When a Government that lacks legitimacy we want a rejection of this government even by white South Africa. Those industrialists who actually support this government, the state of emergency must quickly change their minds because the longer they support this government, the longer will be the trail of blood and violence and disaster. "
Billy Nair, the freedom fighter who sacrificed everything for the cause of freedom and liberty for all South Africans, was clear at that meeting in 1985 about the kind of South Africa he wanted to see emerge.
"We want a South Africa of the people for the people by the people. A South Africa that will not be determined in the drawing rooms of the National Party, its caucus or the NIS (National Intelligence Security) or by roping in a few of the puppets by saying: accept this and you find the puppetes dancing to their tunes of their masters in Pretoria."
Billy Nair has left South Africa and South Africans a rich legacy. When he passed away, he did not leave behind millions or billions of rand in bank accounts - only a life of sacrifice for the betterment of all South Africans - including the poorest of the poor. - ends- firstname.lastname@example.org