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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)