ISMAIL CHOTA (I C) MEER – ONE OF THE GIANTS OF THE STRUGGLES FOR FREEDOM AND A NON-RACIAL DEMOCRACY.. HIS LIFE IS A LESSON FOR ALL TO CONTINUE WITH THE STRUGGLES FOR A NON-RACIAL AND DEMOCRATIC SOUTH AFRICA
BY SUBRY GOVENDERIn my ongoing series on “Struggle Heroes and Heroines”, I have the pleasure of recalling the role and struggles of veteran activist, writer, journalist, trade unionist, educationist and lawyer, Ismail Chota Meer, who was popularly known as I C Meer.
I am publishing a radio documentary on the contributions by I C Meer for a non-racial and democratic South Africa at a time when many former political activists and veterans are discussing the recently-held 6th democratic general elections on May 8 2019. They are especially concerned that many people decided not to vote because they were not comfortable with the political parties that contested the elections. Many, many young people also did not care to register to vote in the elections.
I C Meer passed away on 1 May 2 000 at the age of 82 after serving the African National Congress in the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Assembly since the dawn of our new era on April 27 1994.I had the privilege of interviewing Mr Meer for this radio documentary at his Durban home while he was still a member of the KZN Provincial Assembly.
Mr Meer, who was born in 1918 in the small Natal town of Waschbank, near Dundee, completed his high school at the famous and historical Sastri College in Durban and obtained his law degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1946.
While at university in Johannesburg he came under the influence of Dr Yusuf Dadoo, who was president of the Transvaal Indian Congress at this time. He also be-friended Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and other political activists.
Mr Meer became involved with the Transvaal Indian Congress as its secretary in 1945, the South African Indian Congress, Natal Indian Congress and the South African Communist Party.
He also participated in the 1952 Defiance Campaign and was among the Congress leaders arrested for treason in December 1956, but charges against him were dropped in early 1958.
At the same time, he was a committed writer and journalist. He edited the Passive Resister during the passive resistance campaigns in 1946 and during the height of the struggles in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s he wrote under various names for the Leader newspaper in Durban and other publications because of the banning orders imposed against him by the apartheid regime. He suffered this inhumanity for nearly 40 years.
Despite the restrictions and banning orders against him, Mr Meer, who was married to another struggle activist, Professor Fatima Meer, managed to run his law practice in the town of Verulam, about 25km north of Durban. It was here in Verulam that I first came into contact with him while I was a pupil at the local high school. Most people in the town and elsewhere saw Mr Meer not only as a role model but also as an inspiration against the former apartheid regime.His full life history and involvement in the struggles is contained in book, titled : "Ismail Meer - A Fortunate Man". The book was published by his wife, Professor Fatima Meer, and the Meer family.
In this radio documentary published below, Mr Meer highlights, in his own words, the struggles for the creation of a non-racial and democratic future South Africa.