POLITICAL ACTIVIST DR KESAVEL GOONAM MADE STATELESS BY THE FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN APARTHEID REGIME
DR KESAVEL GOONAM REFUSED TO BE TREATED AS A “PARIAH”
(PHOTO TAKEN FROM DR GOONAM'S AUTOBIOGRAPOHY - COOLIE DOCTOR)INTRO:
In March 1983, at a time when the struggles against white minority rule and domination was gaining momentum, one of the firebrand woman political activists, who was in exile, became stateless after the apartheid Government at that time refused to renew her passport.
Dr Kesavel Goonam had gone into exile in 1977 following intense persecution by the former apartheid regime.
While she was in London during this period, she had applied to renew her passport but she was informed that the South African Government at that time was not prepared to renew her passport and that her passport had in fact been destroyed.
In 1983 she moved to Zimbabwe where she worked for the new Zimbabwean Government as a health officer, while at the same time interacting with other South Africans involved in the underground struggles.
She returned to the country early in the 1990s after the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC, PAC and other organisations in February 1990.
She became active in post-apartheid work but died a very disillusioned person in 1999 at the age of 92.
In March 1983, the Press Trust of SA News Agency spoke to Dr Goonam in Harare, Zimbabwe, by telephone from Durban about her life as a stateless person although she was a South African. The PTSA published this article and distributed it to the Press Trust of India and other news outlets around the world.
23 March 1983
PROMINENT INDIAN-ORIGIN WOMAN ACTIVIST STATELESS
One of South Africa’s most prominent Indian-origin woman political activists, who in 1977 was chosen “Woman of the Year for Africa”, by the Madras-based Indian Cultural Group, has been made a stateless person by the South African Government.
Seventy-year-old Kesaveloo Goonam was on a trip to London in 1979 when the South African Government refused to renew her passport.
She was told that she would only be granted a travel document to return to South Africa but not a passport. But the fiery “old lady” of black politics in South Africa refused to be treated as a “pariah” and insisted that she should be granted a passport.
She has been in exile ever since the late 1970s when she travelled to India, where she has a daughter in Madras, and to Australia and now to Zimbabwe.
Dr Goonam, who is one of the most colourful Indian-origin politicians South Africa has ever produced, began her struggles in South Africa after graduating as a doctor in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1936. She was the first Indian-origin woman in South Africa to qualify as a medical doctor.
She was very active in the Passive Resistance Campaign, led by Dr Monty Naicker against the Group Areas Act in the early 1940s, and was detained on more than ten occasions for her anti-apartheid work at that time.
She also served a one-year jail sentence for defying the Pretoria authorities during the Passive Resistance campaigns.
The outspoken woman doctor, who caused an outcry in her younger days when she openly smoked at a time when it was taboo for an Indian woman to be seen with a cigarette, was chosen Woman of the Year for Africa in 1977 by the Indian Cultural Group in Madras.
In addition to being a member of the Anti-Segregation League, the Passive Resistance Movement and the Natal Indian Congress – established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1897 - Dr Goonam also served as the first chairperson of the Anti-SAIC Committee in 1977.
It was largely through this committee’s work that the South African Government-created puppet organisation, the South African Indian Council (SAIC), was shunned by Indian-origin South Africans during the first SAIC election in 1981.
In 1978, Dr Goonam went to London to work for the Redbridge and Waltham Forest Area Health authorities.
In October 1979, while she was still in London, Dr Goonam applied for the renewal of her South African passport. After months of delay, she was told by the Pretoria Government that her passport would not be renewed and that her old passport had been destroyed.
In a telephone interview from Zimbabwe, she told the independent Press Trust of South Africa News Agency that she was “alive and kicking” and was on the verge of taking up a medical appointment with the Zimbabwe Government.
“I returned to southern Africa because I want to be near the struggles in South Africa.
“The white minority regime is not going to last for ever,” she said confidently. Ends – Press Trust of SA News Agency March 23 1983