Wednesday, June 28, 2017

RECALLING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF PEOPLE OF INDIAN-ORIGIN AT A TIME WHEN WE PAY TRIBUTE TO STRUGGLE VETERAN KAY MOONSAMY

(Kay Moonsamy being greeted by Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, during a visit to Durban last year) On Wednesday, June 21, last week one of the veterans of the freedom struggles, Mr Kesaval Kay Moonsamy, who sacrificed 67 years of life for the liberation of South Africa, passed on at the age of 91. His funeral took place at the Claire Estate Crematorium on Saturday, June 24. He was accorded a special provincial state funeral by the KwaZulu-Natal Government. At this time when we pay tribute to Mr Moonsamy, veteran journalist Subry Govender writes that it’s appropriate to remember the role played by organisations and leaders of the people of Indian-origin in the freedom struggles. Mr Moonsamy’s passing has taken place at a time when people are disenchanted and disillusioned with the current state of affairs in what is supposed to be our new non-racial and democratic society. By Subry Govender The role of the people of Indian-origin in supporting the freedom struggles led by the African National Congress and other liberation movements is beyond question. In the early 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the community led by the Natal Indian Congress, established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1894, participated fully in all the struggles such as the defiance campaigns, anti-pass laws and the anti-segregation protests. The NIC operated alongside the Transvaal Indian Congress and the South African Indian Congress.
(Dr Yusuf Dadoo addressing a rally in Johannesburg in the early 1940s) The leaders during this period included stalwarts such as Dr Yusuf Dadoo, Dr Monty Naicker, Ahmed Kathrada, J N Singh, I C Meer, Fatima Meer and Dr Desaval Goonam. Then after the ANC was outlawed in the early 1960s, a number of activists joined the ANC in underground activities. They included activists of the calibre of Mac Maharaj, Indres Naidoo, Phyllis Naidoo, M D Naidoo, Billy Nair, Sunny Singh, R D Naidoo, Swaminathan Gounden and hundreds of other unsung heroes and heroines.
(HARRY DEODUTH ADDRESSING A PROTEST MEETING IN CATO MANOR IN 1956. J N SINGH IS SEATED BEHIND THE SPEAKER) In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when almost all above ground political activities were crushed by the former white regime, once again Indian-origin activists came to the fore when they revived the Natal Indian Congress. Some of those who sacrificed their lives during this period were activists such as Mewa Ramgobin, Dr Dilly Naidoo, Farouk Meer, Ela Gandhi, George Sewpersadh, M J Naidoo, Dr Jerry Coovadia, Thumba Pillay, Maggie Govender, Roy Padaychie, Pravin Gordhan, Yunus Mahomed, Devadas Paul David, D K Singh, A H Randeree, Ramlal Ramesar, A S Chetty and Rabbi Bugwandeen.
(Rabbi Bugwandee addressing protestors in Durban) For all intents and purposes, the NIC at this time was the internal wing of the ANC. All these leaders and others also played a vital and pivotal role in the establishment of the United Democratic Front in the early 1980s.
(ONE OF THE ACTIVISTS DURING THE STRUGGLE YEARS IN THE 1970S AND 1980S) Mr Ramgobin, who became an ANC MP after 1994 and who passed on in October 2016, was banned and house-arrested for more than 18 years. At one meeting in Durban in the late 1980s, Ramgobin demonstrated the kind of dedication and commitment displayed by Indian-origin activists. He told the protest meeting:
(MEWA RAMGOBIN ADDRESSING AN ANTI-GOVERNMENT MEETING IN THE 1980S) “We black, brown and white people have shown to the world that we will not nurse compliance to apartheid. It is our proposition that we recognise and project that our immediate goal is not the victory only on our side of the struggle, but as proclaimed in the Freedom Charter, the victory must be a synthesis of all our inter-faced claims if South Africa has to belong to all who live in it.” The late Mr George Sewpersadh, who was the president of the Natal Indian Congress and an executive member of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the late 1970s and 1980s, also during a meeting in Durban in the mid-1980s, displayed the commitment of people of Indian-origin to freedom, democracy, non-racialism and socio-economic development of all the people of the country.
He had said: “We realise that no one in this country can be free until all the people are free. Through our joint efforts over the years we are increasingly bringing about unity that is required to bring us our victory. Our methods of struggle over the years have not been in vain. We have gradually been gaining in strength and there can be no doubt in the future, we will play our full role in bringing about the unity that is required to bring an end to racialism and in bringing an end to the apartheid policies of the current government. “Our support for the Freedom Charter makes clear our rejection of apartheid and makes clear our commitment to liberation, freedom, justice, non-racialism, and total abhorrence to the policy of domination of one group over another.”
Dr Farouk Meer, who was the secretary of the revived NIC, was another Indian-origin leader who demonstrated the commitment of the people to freedom and justice for all in a new, non-racial and democratic society. “We in the Congress salute the bold, effective and imaginative blow that the UDF officials have taken by taking refuge at the American Consulate in Johannesburg. In doing so they have struck a blow for freedom. Their action is in keeping with the Gandhian tradition of non-violence resistance to tyranny and we completely support your stay at the American Consulate. Like the Durban Consulate Six, Vally Moosa, Murphy Morobe and Khanyile have highlighted the uncivilised and barbaric practice of putting people in jail indefinitely without trial. South Africans hope that the apartheid Government will see this as an opportunity to develop a sensitivity to local opinion and makes a sincere and serious effort to break the domestic political impasse. It could make a start by lifting the state of emergency, releasing all political detainees and bringing to an end its myriad security laws that have turned our country into a police state.”
(DR VIJAY RAMLUCKAN - ONE OF THE UNDERBROUND ACTIVISTS WHO WAS JAILED FOR HIS ACTIVITIES FOR THE ANC) Beside the NIC leaders, Indian-origin activists also played leading roles in the Black Consciousness movement. Some of these activists included Dr Saths Cooper, Krish Govender, Sam Moodley, Bishop Rubin Phillip and the late Strini Moodley. During this period there were also people who joined organisations such as the Non-European Unity Movement and the Pan Africanist Congress(PAC).
(R K NAIDOO, ABDUL BHAMJEE AND OTHER SPORTS LEADERS WHO USED THE SPORTING ARENA TO FIGHT THE APARTHEID SYSTEM) The struggle for freedom was not just restricted to the political arena. People of Indian-origin also played a major role in the sporting structures to highlight the injustices perpetrated against the black majority. Some of the leaders who made their mark during the dark days of the struggle were Mr Morgan Naidoo (swimming), Mr M N Pather in tennis and the South African Council of Sport(SACOS), Mr George Singh (soccer), Mr R K Naidoo, who was the president of the South African Soccer Federation Professional League(SASFPL), Mr Cassim Bassa (tennis), Mr Shun David (soccer), Mr Krish Mackedhuj, who was involved with the South African Cricket Board of Control, Mr Hassan Howa (cricket), Mr Abdul Bhamjee (soccer and cricket), Mr Sam Ramsamy, (S A Non-Racial Olympic Committee - SANROC), Mr Abdullah Khan (cricket), Mr Ramhori Lutchman (soccer), Mr Ronnie Govender (soccer), Mr M N Govender (soccer) and Mr Dharam Ramlall (soccer). There were also scores of others who worked behind the scenes in the sporting field to fight the evil apartheid system. In addition to these political, social and sporting contributions, a number of activists paid the ultimate price when they were murdered by the apartheid security forces and security police at the height of the struggles. Some of these activists include Ahmed Timol (31) of Johannesburg, Dr Hoosen Hafejee (26) of Pietermaritzburg, Krishna Rabilall (28) of Merebank and Lenny Naidoo (24) of Chatsworth. Timol, a school teacher, was pushed to his death from the 10th floor of the John Vorster police headquarters in Johannesburg in October 1971; Dr Haffejee, who had trained as a dentist in India, was found hanging at the Brighton Beach Police Station after being detained by the security police in August 1977; Rabilall, an MK soldier was killed along with 16 other colleagues when the former South African Defence Force carried out a raid on ANC houses in Matola, Mozambique, in January 1981; and Naidoo, another MK soldier, was killed along with eight other MK soldiers while returning home through Swaziland in 1988.
(BILLY NAIR BEING WELCOMED AT A TRADE UNION MEETING AFTER HIS RELEASE FROM ROBBEN ISLAND AFTER MORE THAN 20 YEARS IN PRISON)
(BC LEADER STRINI MOODLEY)
After the advent of our democracy in April 1994, a number of our activists were absorbed into the new ANC Government. However, scores of others withdrew into the background, believing that their work was now complete. Despite all contributions and sacrifices for freedom, non-racialism and a just society, there is a great deal of disenchantment and disillusionment at the current state of affairs prevalent in the country, 23 years after the advent of our new democracy. The question that many people ask is this: What has happened to all the values and principles that people of the calibre of Kay Moonsamy, Billy Nair, Mewalall Ramgobin, George Sewpersadh, Ahmed Kathrada, I C Meer, Fatima Meer, Dr Kesaval Goonam, Phyllis Naidoo, Ahmed Timol, Dr Hoosen Hafejee, Krish Rabilall, Lenny Naidoo and scores of others had sacrificed their lives for? – ends June 24 2017 (subrygovender@gmail.com)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

SOWETO UPRISINGS - RECALLING THE STRUGGLES FOR AN EQUAL AND HIGHER QUALITY OF EDUCATION ON THE 41st ANNIVERSARY OF THE SOWETO UPRISINGS

BY SUBRY GOVENDER On Friday, June 16(2017) – South Africans will observe the 41st anniversary of the Soweto uprisings when school pupils took to the streets to express their anger at the forced introduction of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in their schools. Hundreds of people were killed in the aftermath of June 16 1976 when school pupils and students in Soweto and other parts of the country protested against the violence perpetrated by the former apartheid regime and its security forces. Subry Govender recalls what took place on that fateful day and thereafter when school pupils and students all over the country sacrificed their lives for the freedom that we enjoy today…….. . (This report was compiled on the 32nd anniversary of the Soweto Uprisings in 2008. This report is still relevant today on the 41st anniversary of the struggles for a higher quality of education.)

Friday, June 9, 2017

BY SUBRY GOVENDER DEVADAS PAUL DAVID – A STRUGGLE ACTIVIST WHO WAS COMMITTED TO THE LIBERATION OF THE OPPRESSED FROM AN EARLY AGE

DEVADAS PAUL DAVID - STRUGGLE STALWART WHO BECAME INVOLVED IN LIBERATION STRUGGLES AT AN EARLY AGE May 25 2017 In his continuing efforts to recognise the contributions of our struggle stalwarts, veteran journalist, Subry Govender, in this feature pays tribute to North Coast lawyer, 76-year-old Devadas Paul David. David was one of the anti-apartheid activists who played a major role in the struggles for a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa.
In 1961 when he was studying for a law degree at the then University of Natal in Durban, Devadas Paul David took the plunge to contribute to the liberation struggles when he became an underground member of the African National Congress(ANC). At this time the ANC had just been banned along with the Pan Africanist Congress(PAC) following the massacre by the apartheid police of anti-pass law protestors in Sharpeville, near Johannesburg, in 1960. He was recruited to distribute pamphlets and to carry out other underground activities. “At this time there was a lot of political activity on the campus and I came under the influence of some great leaders such as Palaki Sello and Ernest Gallo, who died while evading arrest,” he said in an interview. “We also had Phyllis Naidoo, Sydney Dunn, and Kutumela who came from Fort Hare.” Three years earlier Paul David, at the tender age of 17, joined the Natal Indian Congress and became the secretary of the NIC Youth Congress while still a pupil at the Verulam High School on the North Coast. He became politically aware at a young age when his father and eldest sister, Phyllis Naidoo, spoke out openly against the apartheid system. At this time, he also came under the influence of his brother-in-law, M D Naidoo, who with his sister, Phyllis Naidoo, were firebrand leaders of the Congress at that time.
Born on August 26 1940 in Pietermaritzburg into a devout Catholic family, David’s grand-parents came from a little village in Tamil Nadu in South India to the then Natal Colony as indentured sugar cane labourers. His father, Simon David, was a school teacher and principal and as such was a strict disciplinarian. He instilled the values of respect for elders and commitment to education to David and his three other sons and three daughters. David became actively involved in the political struggles when he joined Mewa Ramgobin and other activists in the revival of the Natal Indian Congress in the early 1970s and was elected secretary of the NIC in 1979. He was also involved with the Release Mandela Committee and was elected its secretary in 1983 and in the same year became fully involved with the United Democratic Front(UDF). In addition to his political involvement at all levels, Paul David also became involved in anti-apartheid work at community levels in ratepayers’ organisations in Verulam, Stanger and Durban. He was also involved in non-racial sport in organisations such as the Southern Natal Soccer Board, South African Soccer Federation, Natal Cricket Board, Natal Council of Sport, South African Council of Sport and at local levels in Verulam and Stanger. His involvement and that of some of his comrades in sporting arena was meant to basically keep the former dreaded Security Police off their backs. “People had to be mobilised and they had to be organised. Sport we thought was a very useful vehicle for that purpose and that is why we joined the non-racial sporting organisations in soccer, cricket, SACOS (South African Council of Sport. We expected the Security Police to stop tracking us but in fact they intensified their watch,” he said. After the Natal Indian Congress was revived in the early 1970s, Paul David once again took an active part in its activities. At the same time with other leaders he initiated the establishment of the Release Mandela Committee, calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. The Natal Indian Congress at this time was for all intents and purposes the internal wing of the ANC. One of their major campaigns in the early 1980s was against the South African Indian Council (SAIC), whose leaders at that time included J N Reddy, Salaam Abram Mayet and Amichand Rajbansi. “In that campaign we visited an estimated 50 000 homes in Natal alone, carrying the message that the SAIC people didn’t represent South Africans of Indian-origin and our destiny lay with the vast majority of the South African people. As you know that was a very successful campaign and less than 10 percent of the people voted in the elections.” In August 1983 when the UDF was launched in Cape Town, Paul David and other leaders of the Natal Indian Congress were some of the leading personalities in this stage of the struggle that pronounced that minority rule was coming to an end. “The political struggle of 1983 against the tri-cameral parliament stood on all the mobilising work that had been done for years before that. So the UDF was absolutely political in nature.” Paul David and his comrades came under attack from the security police after they were seen as being the architects behind the establishment of the UDF in 1983. Paul David and his comrades, George Sewpersadh, M J Naidoo, Mewa Ramgobin, Archie Gumede and Billy Nair took refuge at the British Consulate in the then Smith Street in Durban. “We knew that there were warrants out for our arrest, so we sought the sanctuary of the British Consulate to highlight to the outside world the repressive actions of arrest without trial, arbitrary powers of the Minister of Justice at the time and things like that. We were there in the Consulate for about five months and then we were charged for treason.” Paul David was among the 16 activists who were charged with High Treason at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in 1985. The others were Mewa Ramgobin, Isaac Duze Ngcobo, Archie Gumede, Curtis Nkondo, Sisa Njikelana, Aubrey Mokoena, Sam Kikine, M J Naidoo, Albertina Sisulu, Essop Jassat, Cassim Salojee, George Sewpersadh, Frank Chikane and Thozamile Gqweta. But after a trial lasting more than two years all of them were found not guilty and discharged. During the constitutional talks at Kempton Park in Johannesburg in the early 1990s, Paul David was one the delegates who represented the Natal Indian Congress. Now resident in KwaDukuza, Paul David still keeps an active eye on political developments while involving himself in several community and civic organisations. In a recent interview at his home in KwaDukuza, David told me that he was disillusioned with the deep divisions currently wracking the ANC and he hoped that the organisation would cleanse itself of those people who only joined to enrich themselves and to further their own nests. “The ANC is our home and we cannot allow corruption, nepotism, and greed to devour our organisation,” he said. “We have to commit ourselves to the values and principles that our leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Billy Nair, Monty Naicker, Yusuf Dadoo and others had infused in us.” He said despite the enormous achievements over the past 23 years, he believes that the ANC has become like any other political party. “We thought that the ANC would be different from other political parties around the country and its approach to politics would be completely different. We thought that the formation of a party would not be different to a liberation organisation where it had morality as the core trait or as a recognisable characteristic. But the ANC has fallen into the trap that is set for all politicians and political parties and that is designed for gain for itself and for chosen members.” David said it was time for vibrant debate and discussions on the many social and economic issues facing the people. David was blunt in his view that the ANC is not the future but merely the hope for a better future. “Having said that the ANC has adopted so many anti-social characteristics, it doesn’t mean that it is the end. But what we see today is that the ANC is not the future, it is merely the hope of a brighter future, and to achieve that the ANC has to be reformed from the centre and right from grass-root level. “The ANC should be the first organisation to encourage committees, lobby groups, forums where policies and politics of the country are debated robustly. You can’t hope to achieve this through the ANC branches because they follow the policy of the ANC. “South Africa should not become a country where only the views of one political party becomes dominant. If this happens then all the sacrifices of thousands of activists and leaders would have been in vain.” Ends –subrygovender@gmail.com