Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Today, August 16 2017, is the 30th anniversary of the passing of our father, Mr Munien Subramoney Govender. At the time of his passing on August 16 1987, he was staying with his family at 30 Mimosa Road, Verulam. Prior to moving to Verulam in the late 1960s, our father and mother raised seven children and one adopted son at our home in Munn Road, Ottawa. Our father was born in Cato Manor where his parents, mother, Kaniamma, and father, Munien, set up home in the early 1920s. His father, Munien, came to the former Natal Colony as a young boy with his aunty from the village of Damal in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu. He was part of a large family of three brothers and six sisters. Only one sister, Meenachie, who lives in Phoenix, is still around today. The pictures of our father published here were taken when we were living in Munn Road, Ottawa and Lotusville, Verulam. His parents and sisters, Manna, Chapane and Meenachie, photo was taken in Cato Manor. On this day, August 16 2017, the 30th anniversary of his passing at the age of 69, we his children – Ambiga, Sadha(Subry), Nanda, Sydney, Kistamma (Violet), Nelson, and Natachthramma (Childie), grand-children, great-grand-children, and daughters-in-law want to express our sincere gratitude to him for working tirelessly with Amma to provide us the educational opportunities for us to better our lives. He was one of the volunteers who sacrificed their time at weekends and holidays to build the Jhugroo primary school for the community of Ottawa. He worked with people of the calibre of SS Maharaj, Munoo Maharaj, Badloo, Mr Singh of School Road, Mr Naicker and others to promote the importance of education in our lives. He and our mother, Salatchie, are always in our thoughts.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


(SUNNY SINGH AND HIS WIFE, URMILA, WITH NELSON MANDELA IN MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE IN THE EARLY 1990s) One of the backroom boys and unsung heroes of South Africa's freedom struggles is Durban-born - Sunny Gerja Singh. In this report on Struggle Heroes and Heroines veteran journalist, Subry Govender, profiles the life of this struggle stalwart who was imprisoned on Robben Island for 10 years for his activities on behalf of the African National Congress..……..
(Sunny Singh with late former Tanzanian President Julius Nyrere at the Hague late 1980s) Sunny Gerja Singh was born into a large family of five brothers and two sisters in 1939 in one of the most famous working class suburbs of Cato Manor in Durban. The area where he was born was known as Umkumbaan. His father, Girjabaksh Singh, came down as an indentured labourer from a village in the Bihar state of India while still a minor. He apparently accompanied some family members to work on the sugar estates as indentured labourers. His mother, Gumte Singh, was born here in the former Natal Colony. Sunny Singh remembers his father working as a rice farmer and hawker and his mother working as a machinist in a clothing factory in Durban. From an early age while still a pupil at the M L Sultan Seconardy School, Sunny Singh became aware of the exploitation of the poor by rich landlords.
(Sunny Singh with the Mayor of Amsterdam Van Thyn at the opening of the ANC office) The landlord of the property where they stayed in Umkumbaan was a “vicious exploiter” and Sunny was so upset about this oppressive attitude that he nearly set alight the landlord’s upholstery factory when he was 12-years-old. Later this consciousness developed into political activism when he personally experienced the oppression of the people through the then dreaded Group Areas Act. “As my political awareness grew I began to understand the bigger picture when the Group Areas Act affected our people right from areas such as Cato Manor, Riverside to Chatsworth. I began to search for organisations that were involved in the struggles and my first home was the Natal Indian Congress which I joined in 1958 during the ‘Potatoe Boycott’,” Singh told me in an interview. Sunny Singh became caught up in a number of battles. During the protests and campaigns against the arrest of the 156 leaders who were charged with High Treason in 1955 he went around and collected funds for the treason accused at the then Victoria Street “Indian” Market. He also took an active part in the centenary celebrations in 1960 of the arrival of Indians as indentured labourers to the then Natal Colony in 1860. “All these factors made one to become active through the Natal Indian Congress. My first contact with the leadership of the Natal Indian Congress was through people like Billy Nair, Kesaval Munsamy, N T Naicker and of course the leader of the NIC, Dr G M Monty Naicker.” After the ANC was banned in 1960 and the NIC was made virtually ineffective through bannings and detentions, Sunny Singh joined Umkhonto We Sizwe in 1962 and became part of a unit in Durban under the command of Ebrahim Ismail Ebhraim. “My first act of sabotage was on the railway line under the Victoria Street bridge which was the main track between Durban and Johannesburg and the offices of those who collaborated with the apartheid regime.” Sunny Singh was arrested in October 1963 along with 18 other MK activists and charged, convicted and sentenced to Robben Island for 10 years. Ten of the “MK soldiers” were Africans and nine “Indians”. His fellow comrades convicted included Billy Nair, Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim, Kisten Moonsamy, Kisten Doorsamy, Siva Pillay, Curnik Ndlovu, George Naicker and Nathoo Babania. They were all convicted of carrying out acts of sabotage.
(SUNNY SINGH, WIFE URMILA, AND A SUPPORTER OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN STRUGGLE) All of them were sentenced from five to 20 years “hard labour” on Robben Island. Billy Nair and Curnik Ndlovu were sentenced to 20 years each because they were found to be the leaders of the MK cell. Life was difficult on Robben Island and after 10 years of torture, he was released in 1964. When he walked out from the Durban Central Prison where the ICC stands today there was no one there to meet him. The warders told his family that they would drop him off at their home but on the day of his release he was just told to leave through the main gate. He was left on his own to find his way. He walked to a newspaper office to make contact with one of the journalists. “I tried to contact Dennis Pather if my memory serves me well. I wanted to get to the office of Phyllis Naidoo. I walked all the way holding my pants because I did not have a belt. I walked to a shop and bought a belt and two Sunday newspapers. “When I got to Phyllis’s office it was an emotional meeting. She laughed when I told her that I did not have underwear. She quickly gave one of her office secretaries some money to go and purchase me some underwear. “From Phyllis’s office I found my way to our old home in Umkumbaan. People were waiting for me and there was a lot of excitement, joy and emotions.” Five days after his release he was served with a five year banning and restriction order that prevented him from leaving home between 6pm and 6am and prohibited him from entering any other Indian, coloured or African residential area. He was under constant surveillance by the security branch policemen at that time. After a few months in Cato Manor, he applied for permission to move to Chatsworth. His mother used to travel from Cato Manor to Chatsworth to visit him on a regular basis. Although the banning order restricted him from meeting and talking to people, the resourceful Sunny Singh continued with his political and underground activities. “Despite the trying conditions and the constant surveillance of security branch people, I managed to carry out overt and covert work. I set up a structure in Unit 2 in Chatsworth to do some civic duties. “And in Merebank, I was involved in political educational with former BC members like Bobby Marie, Shamim Meer, Willie Lesley and Rubin Phillip. Some of these people later joined the ANC. “I also recruited into the underground Ivan Pillay, his brother Daya, Coastal Govender, Krish Rabilall, Patrick Msomi and his wife, Jabu. Krish Rabilall was killed during one of Pretoria’s strikes against ANC members in Maputo and Patrick and Jabu were brutally killed in car bomb explosion in Swaziland.”
(SUNNY SINGH AT A PROGRESSIVE MEETING IN DURBAN IN 2017) PART TWO On Christmas Day in 1976 six months after the Soweto uprisings, Sunny Singh left the country to join the ANC and MK in exile. “I left the country secretly in the company of another comrade, Riot Mkwanzi, who sadly is no longer with us today. We were met at the Swazi-Mozambique border by Jacob Zuma. “After spending three months in Mozambique I went to Tanzania and from there to Angola and then to the then East Germany where I underwent training in urban warfare. “I returned to Mozambique in 1977 and joined the Natal Command of MK under Zuma. Later Ivan Pillay and I joined the Political underground machinery under Mac Maharaj. After this I joined the MK Military Intelligence Unit under the command of Ronnie Kasrils. “After the murder of President Samora Machel by the Pretoria regime towards the end of 1987 we were given the marching orders by the Mozambican Government under pressure from the Boers.” During this period, Sunny Singh changed his name twice. First he assumed the name of Bobby Pillay and travelled on a Tanzanian passport and then later as Kumar Sanjay and used an Indian passport. During his long years in exile he worked with leaders such as Jacob Zuma and Mac Maharaj. He recalls that the Nkomati Accord signed between South Africa and Mozambique in March 1984 was a “heavy blow” for the ANC and its combatants. Mozambique was forced to sign the Accord after South Africa carried out a number of raids against ANC bases in the late 1970s and 1980s. One of the agreements of the Accord was that Mozambique should not provide refuge to ANC militants and soldiers and that ANC leaders and members should be removed.
(Sunny Singh at the South Africa in the Making museum at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban) “The Nkomati Accord was a heavy blow for hundreds of ANC members, including Jacob Zuma, Joe Slovo and Chris Hani. They had to leave Mozambique,” he said. “I survived and was appointed Chairman of the Military Unit. I had to traverse the whole of Mozambique to find ways to smuggle weapons from either Malawi or Tanzania. “This operation was time consuming and dangerous. But we were able to beat the restrictions on us by managing to smuggle weapons through the Maputo airport. One of the cadres, Catrinia, who I recruited into MK, was able to pull off this coup through her contacts at the airport. “Catrinia, who was known to all comrades and friends as Kate, is the late wife of Jacob Zuma. Through her efforts we managed to get our weapons flown from Angola to Maputo through Angola’s passenger airline, Taag. I would say Kate was one of our unsung heroines.” After spending a year in Zambia after being expelled from Mozambique in 1988, Sunny Singh was appointed the ANC’s Chief Reprentative in Holland from 1988 to 1992. When Nelson Mandela was released in February 1990 and the ANC and other organisations were unbanned, Sunny Singh was keen to return home. But he was advised by the ANC to remain in Holland to take advantage of the new political environment to promote the ANC as the leading force in political negotiations.
(Sunny Singh at the South Africa in the Making museum at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban) “1990 was a turning point in our struggles with the release of Nelson Mandela. When Mandela visited Holland in June 1990, I managed with the great support of the broader Dutch Anti-Apartheid Movement to mobilise 20 000 people to greet Mandela in an open air rally in Amsterdam. It was a great day,” he said. When he returned home at the end of 1991, he continued with his political work and established an educational programme called CREDEP. This was a school project dealing with integration and challenges in the class room. They reached out to black townships such as KwaMashu and Inanda. “We even organised extra lessons on Saturdays and in three years, our projects managed to get 400 pupils to pass their matriculation examinations.” After the 1994 elections, Singh was drafted into the Crime Intelligence Service and worked as an officer in Durban. He served the intelligence service until 2008. Although Sunny Singh is now retired he’s still concerned about the socio-economic conditions of many communities. He’s currently a volunteer at “South Africa in the Making”, a project of the Monty Naicker Foundation. This project is based at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Sunny Singh, who worked under Jacob Zuma in Mozambique during the early years of his time in exile, finds the socio-economic and political situation disturbing. “We need to overcome our problems and divisions and concentrate our efforts in fulfilling our struggles for a better life for all South Africans,” he said. “We must struggle for a society where non-racialism and democracy also means that the lives of the most disadvantaged and the marginalised are also improved.
(Sunny Singh at the South Africa in the Making museum at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban) “We cannot have a society where only the privileged few are making hay in our new free South Africa.” Does he feel disillusioned in any way with the political infighting, leadership battles and the lack of values among some of the leaders? “It's a crisis that's paralysing our economy, unemployment is at a frighteningly dangerous level and moral leadership is affected. But I have hope. We have good citizens and there are still many good comrades in ANC. I am sure, sometime soon that there will be a positive outcome. “I am certain that we will resolve all these problems for the good of the country,” he said. – ends – subrygovender@gmail.com July 19 2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017


By SUBRY GOVENDER A MEMBER of national parliament, Trevor John Bonhomme, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 75, was a committed struggle stalwart, who went the extra mile to promote the well-being of the disenfranchised, discriminated, poor and marginalised people for more than 55 years of his life.
(Trevor Bonhomme when he was acting Mayor at a function at the DCC with Nelson Mandela) Born in Overport, Durban, in January 1942, Bonhomme was the fourth eldest of a large family of six brothers and five sisters. His father, Virgil Franz Bonhomme, and mother, Patricia, were ordinary working-class parents. They lived in a mixed neighbourhood and Bonhomme was initially unaware of the political oppression that people of colour were subjected to. Coming from a staunch Catholic family, Bonhomme attended the St Augustine Primary School, which was situated where the Denis Hurley Centre, in the Durban CBD, is now based. He, thereafter, attended Umbilo High School where he matriculated in the late 1950s. His involvement in promoting the well-being of his fellow people began when he started work at the Grafton upholstery company in the early 1960s.
(TREVOR WITH FORMER FINANCE MINISTER PRAVIN GORDHAN) His brother, Virgil, also started work at the upholstery factory at the same time. “Soon after starting work, Trevor was told that the labourers were only earning R9 a week and he told me and other workers that something must be done to help the labourers earn a decent wage,” recalled Virgil. “Trevor organised the workers and all of us went on strike demanding that the labourers be paid appropriately. Despite their dislike for Trevor, management decided to double the wages and pay the labourers R18 a week. But Trevor and I were blacklisted and in a matter of time, we were dismissed and prohibited from being employed by other upholstery companies.” Bonhomme, thereafter, continued with his trade union work and established the Furniture Trade Union in the late 1960s. At the same time his political awareness took root when the families in the Overport area where affected by the Group Areas Act with separate residential areas for coloured people, Indian-origin people, Africans and whites. Their property was expropriated and Bonhomme and his brothers and sisters were deeply affected by the forced removals from their roots.
(TREVOR WITH HIS WIFE, LORRAINE) In the early 1970s after Bonhomme married his wife, Lorraine, he moved to Newlands East where his community work for the underprivileged and deprived gained momentum. Bonhomme could not accept that people could not obtain sufficient water from the municipality and that they were unable to make ends meet because of their poverty. Together with other concerned residents, Bonhomme established the Newlands East Residents' Association to campaign for the poor and underprivileged. Bonhomme was concerned that the former white municipality was not doing enough to provide the necessary services for the people. “What Trevor found out was that other areas such as Wentworth, Merebank, Chatsworth and Phoenix were experiencing the same problems. "He joined hands with comrades such as Pravin Gordhan and Yunus Mahomed and initiated the establishment of the Durban Housing Action Committee to tackle the apartheid policies of the white-controlled municipality.”
(TREVOR WITH HIS THREE SONS) At the same time when 'coloured' leaders, Sonny Leon, David Curry and Norman Middleton established the Labour Party to fight for the rights of the people, Bonhomme was advised by his comrades to join the Labour Party. But this association was terminated after the Labour Party chose to contest the tri-cameral elections in the 1980s. Bonhomme and his family joined the Don’t Vote campaign to ensure the majority of the coloured and Indian-origin people did not vote in the elections. At this time he was leader of the United Committee of Concern, which concentrated in politicising the 'coloured' people against the tri-cameral parliament and the former white minority regime. He also secretly joined the ANC underground with Gordhan, Mahomed, Henny Ferris of Cape Town and other activists. During the height of the struggles in the 1980s, Bonhomme was arrested and detained for six months at Modderbee Prison in Johannesburg.
(Trevor Bonhomme with Kishore Harie)
(Trevor Bonhomme with Harry Naidoo, who visited him in December 2016 while on holiday in Durban from his home in Australia) When Nelson Mandela and other leaders were released and the ANC and other organisations were unbanned in February 1990, Bonhomme openly joined the ranks of the ANC. He was one of the delegates with Gordhan, Mahomed and others who attended the first unbanned ANC national conference at the now former University of Durban-Westville in the early 1990s. After the elections in April 1994, Bonhomme was elected to serve in the North Local Council and thereafter served as a local councillor in the eThekwini Metro.
(Trevor Bonhomme with Clifford Collings who he worked with in the United Committee of Concern) In 2006, he was elected as a member of the National Assembly, a position he held until his untimely death on Saturday. “While serving in the municipality and national parliament, Trevor never, ever forgot the people. He was always there and no matter the time, he would not turn away anybody without helping the people,” said Virgil Bonhomme. “I think the culture of helping the less fortunate has been embedded in him from a young age. He was always a humanitarian. "Although he was earning a decent salary as a councillor and MP, he never deserted the people and continued to stay in Newlands East where his family still reside. “Trevor became very, very disillusioned over the past few years because he was not happy with all the reports of corruption and state capture. "He felt that certain people were violating the values and principles for which leaders of the calibre of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and others had sacrificed their lives for. "He was a comrade who was not tainted in any way. He made sure he maintained his struggle credentials and integrity. Because of this, no one will be allowed to hijack his funeral for political ends.”
One of his daughters, Fiona Mariano, and sons, Bradley Bonhomme, said their father was not only a dedicated political activist but also a Samaritan, who cared about the welfare of the people in general. "He reached out to all disadvantaged people and whenever anybody turned up at our home here in Newlands East, he would always do his best to assist them," said Mariano. "He would never turn anyone away. Money did not matter to him. He always gave to the needy people without asking any questions." Both Mariano and Bradley said their father was also close to his children, grand-children, great-grand-children and his brothers and sisters. "He loved his family very much. He will be missed by all," said Bradley. They said their father, over the past few years, was deeply concerned about the political developments. "He questioned the issue of corruption and became very concerned," said Mariano. The former interim chairperson of the Active Citizens Movement, Siva Naidoo, of Tongaat, said Bonhomme was a tireless activist, who worked to promote the interests of the less privileged and disadvantaged. “I worked with Trevor for more than 40 years and I remember he pulled out from the Labour Party and brought in thousands of people into the progressive movements at that time,” said Naidoo. “I remember first making contact in 1977 with Trevor and other comrades such as Sydney Dunn, Jeanie Noel, Archie Hulley, Derick Mcbride, Eric Apelgren and the Mannings. "Trevor was passionate about overcoming white minority rule and bringing about a non-racial society where all South Africans lived in peace and harmony. All I want to say: ‘Hamba Gahle Trevor. The struggle continues’.” Bonhomme is survived by his wife, Lorraine, six children, 13 grandchildren, 14 great-grand-children and four brothers and four sisters. Ends – subrygovender@gmail.com