RAMSAMY DORASAMY NAIDU (R D NAIDU) - FEARLESS FREEDOM FIGHTER
While we observe 26 years of Freedom on Monday, Aopril 27 2020, let us at the same time pay tribute to a militant freedom fighter who died 30 years ago today (April 26 1990) when addressing students at the former University of Durban-Westville
RAMSAMY DORASAMY NAIDU (R D NAIDU) – FIRST GENERATION DESCENDANT OF INDENTURED LABOURERS WHO CONTRIBUTED ENORMOUSLY FOR FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY IN SOUTH AFRICABy Subry Govender
Thirty years ago, on April 26 1990, one of the most militant revolutionaries and freedom fighters to emerge from the Indian-origin community, passed away while addressing students at the University of Durban-Westville.
Ramsamy Dorasamy Naidu, popularly known as R D Naidu, a committed communist during the hurly-burly days of the struggle, was invited by the students to support and address a protest rally.
It was just two-and-half months after Nelson Mandela was released from prison and after the ANC, Communist Party and other organisations that were unbanned in February 1990.
When the fiery R D got up to speak, he received a thunderous ovation for his unwavering commitment and involvement in the struggles on behalf of workers, political organisations, civic bodies and non-racial sporting federations.
Mid-way through his speech, R D Naidu collapsed and died.
His death was unexpected and he did not live to see the emergence of the new non-racial South Africa four years later. WHO WAS R D NAIDU?
Who was this freedom fighter who was regarded as one of the most uncompromising and valiant soldiers of the South African revolution?
FIRST GENERATION DESCENDANT OF INDENTURED LABOURERS
In 2009, I spoke to one of his daughters, Ms Ruby Naidu, the third eldest of eight children from his first marriage, and his wife from a second marriage, Mrs Mogie Naidu, about R D Naidu’s life and his involvement in the struggles for a free, non-racial and democratic South Africa.
Ruby Naidu told me at that time that she recalled when she was growing up her father was always a very busy person, taking up the struggles of the people; being involved in political marches and being persecuted by the former dreaded security police.
“As far as I can remember and recall my father was a very busy man politically and I also can remember that the things that stand out in my head are the marches and protests of the Natal Indian Congress. He made sure that my mum and aunts, my sister, Sylvia, and brother, John, took part in the marches,” Ms Naidu told me in the interview when at that time she was living in a flat on the Berea in Durban. NATAL INDIAN CONGRESS AND COMMUNIST PARTY
R D Naidu, a first-generation descendant of indentured sugar cane labourers, was born near the Umgeni River Mosque in Durban in 1914. His involvement in the struggles began at an early age when he started work as a van boy at the Bakers Limited company at the age of 17. He initiated the formation of a union of bakery workers and thereafter his involvement just intensified. He became involved with the Communist Party, the Natal Indian Congress, other trade union organisations, social and civic organisations, and anti-apartheid sporting bodies.
ANTI-APARTHEID SPORTS LEADER
In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, he became well-known for his outspoken commitment to the non-racial cause in organisations such as the United Democratic Front, South African Council of Sport (SACOS), National Sports Congress (NSC), and local organisations such as the Durban Housing Action Committee, David Landau Community Centre and the Asherville Ratepayers Association.
One of the activists who worked closely with R D Naidu from 1973 to the time of his death in 1990 is 68-year-old Eddie Naidu of Asherville.
He and R D Naidu were involved in organisations such as the Durban Indian Child Welfare Society, Asherville Ratepayers Association, Springfield Child Welfare Society, Western Areas Ratepayers’ Association, Asherville Football Association and the Durban Foobtall Association. UNITED DEMOCRATIC FRONT
They joined other activists in the Springfield, Asherville, Puntans Hill, Sydenham and Reservoir Hills areas of Durban.
“We were also involved in the anti-SAIC campaigns in 1979 and the anti-Tri-cameral protests in the 1980s. R D and I also attended the establishment of the UDF in Cape Town on August 20 1983. Here Mr Naidu delivered one of his most powerful speeches against minority domination,” said Mr Naidu.
“When I befriended R D I was just a youngster of 21 and very uninformed about the struggles. But over the next 17 years I became a student of R D because he was a dynamite in every aspect of the word. He was non-violent in his approach but at the same time he did not brook any nonsense and was vociferous in his beliefs for a non-racial and democratic society.
“When Nelson Mandela was released in February 1990, R D was of the view that his dream had been realised. But, sadly, he did not live to see Mandela being elected as South Africa’s first democratic president and the country attaining its freedom in April 1994.”
(R D NAIDU HELPING IN THE PREPARATIONS FOR AN ANTI-APARTHEID SPORTS MEETING WITH HARRY NAIDOO AND ANOTHER ACTIVIST) PROTEST MARCHES
Another old comrade, Mr Dennis Naidoo, who used to join him in protest marches in the Overport area, told me in an interview recently at his home in Somerset Park in Durban that Mr R D Naidu stood out as a fearless activist who was not deterred by the oppressive actions of the former apartheid authorities.
“I remember we used to stand in a group at various places in Overport, holding placards and shouting slogans against the apartheid rulers,” said Mr Naidoo.
“When the security policemen used to turn up, we used to run and when the security policemen left the place, we used to return to continue with our protest actions.
“I also remember walking with R D to the Durban Red Square area to join the protest marches called by the Natal Indian Congress. R D Naidu participated in protest meetings and gatherings without any thought about his own life,” said Mr Naidoo.
“STRUGGLE WAS MORE IMPORTANT”
Ruby Naidu and Mogie Naidu recalled that for R D Naidu the struggle was more important “than any other things in his life”.
The security police always kept a close watch on him and both Ruby Naidu and Mogie Naidu recalled that this harassment at the hands of the security branch caused the family much anxiety.
Said Ruby Naidu: “What I do remember is that on a number of times the security police used to raid our home and turn it upside down. I didn’t know what they were looking for but on most occasions they did not find anything. This is very emotional for me because I can still feel my dad being rough handled and shoved into a van, the doors being shut and my mum left crying on the balcony in the cold. This left all of us just shell shocked.” SECURITY POLICE HARRASSMENT
Mrs Mogie Naidu also recalled the security policemen, one a prominent SB officer, raiding their home in Asherville.
“I recall one of the security policemen, called Benjamin, coming to our place with his fellow security branch officers and screaming: ‘where is RD. tell him that the security branch was here’. After that I would go to the third or fourth door neighbour to use the phone because our phone at home was tapped. I would call him and inform him that the security branch was here. I would pack some of his things and someone would come and pick them up. And he never came home for a few days. We used to be worried about his whereabouts, whether he is in jail or whether he has been murdered by the security branch. This was a great deal of concern for all of us. Then suddenly a few days later he would make his appearance.”
Because of his sacrifices for the struggle for a free and non-racial South Africa, the Durban municipality in 2008 re-named the Stanley Copley Drive in Asherville as the Dr R D Naidu Drive. DR R D NAIDU DRIVE IN ASHERVILLE
Ruby and Mogie Naidu said R D Naidu richly deserved this honour.
“Well I am very happy about it because I feel at last my father has been recognised for the work he had put in and the sacrifices his wife and children had made. And there was a time when my dad went on a hunger strike for 30 days and we all suffered through this. But it was for a good cause that we all believed in,” said Ms Ruby Naidu.
Mrs Naidu also said that she was happy R D Naidu had been recognised for his struggles.
“At least his name is appearing somewhere. He used to always tell me that he used to carry two pens with him. One was a red one and one a blue one. And he always said a pen is mightier than a sword. We believed in this so much that it encouraged my daughter, Rivonia, to take up journalism because she felt that she was fulfilling one of her father’s wishes.” NON-RACIAL DEMOCRACYThe Naidu family members, Mr Eddie Naidu and Mr Denis Naidoo said they believed that if R D Naidu was alive today he would greatly appreciate the new democracy “because this is what he had fought for”. However, he would have had concerns about the actions of some of the people who call themselves "leaders".
“If my father was alive, he would definitely be a very happy man because this is what he stood for throughout his life as a freedom fighter. However, there would be some aspects where he would be unhappy because he was a man of principles and as a working-class man, he would definitely be unhappy about people who are unfairly treated. I would say he had standards and morals,” said Ms Ruby Naidu, who is now settled in Australia.
Mrs Mogie Naidu said he would be very happy about the attainment of freedom in 1994.
“But at the same time, I think as a communist he would have been disappointed and disillusioned about the lack of progress by the majority of the working-class people who live on the margins of society. He would also have been unhappy about the gross incidents of corruption and theft of state funds and resources.
”R D was always there to fight for his people and he always told me that my struggle is more important than anything else and if I have to die, I would like to die in front of my people, addressing a meeting, and that is the way he passed on. He died the way he lived.”
Mr R D Naidu, like the thousands of activists of the early years, was a fearless and principled proponent of the non-racial and democratic cause. It's hoped that the new generation will learn at least something from great soldiers like him.
Ends – Subry Govender April 19 2020