Belvedere Drive Park, Tongaat: 27 November 2010
On 16 November 1860, the Truro docked at the
Port of Natal, bringing the first Indian indentured labourers to
South African soil. In the 150 years since that day, South Africa
has been enriched by the remarkable contribution of a remarkable
I was delighted to receive an invitation
jointly from the Honourable Minister of Communications, Mr
Radhakrishna Padayachie, and Mr Ishwar Ramlutchman, to participate
in this celebration of the 150th anniversary of Indian settlement in
our country. I wish to commend Minister Padayachie on his visionary
leadership that has birthed the Pioneer Peace Park which we
establish today. Creating spaces in which we may remember our shared
history is a valuable step towards building national unity.
I wish also to thank Mr Ramlutchman for his
perseverance and tireless efforts to erect eight Sivananda Peace
Pillars on heritage sites across our country. I had the privilege of
witnessing the first pillar being unveiled in Empangeni, almost a
year ago. Then, last month, I spoke at the unveiling of the second
pillar in Phoenix. I have caught the spirit of enthusiasm that
motivated Mr Ramlutchman to undertake this project and I hope to
witness all eight pillars standing as a testimony to the human
aspiration to unity, harmony and goodwill.
I have had many opportunities during this
year's celebrations to express my support for the Indian community,
beginning with the 10th International Convention of the Global
Organisation of People of Indian Origin which took place at Durban
City Hall in March. Our theme for that Convention was "Turning
Historical Adversity into Advantage" and as I spoke before plenary, I noted that
the 1860 arrival of Indian indentured labourers is now a part of our
collective history; part of all that shaped the democratic and
liberated South Africa we enjoy today.
When the Truro docked, the Zulu Kingdom was
still an intact sovereign State, and it would be another twenty
years before its conquest by the British forces in Ulundi on the 4th
of July 1879. Thus the history of the Zulu nation and that of the
Indian people on this soil are intertwined in a shared South African
history, built on a shared struggle for freedom, recognition and
equal rights. It is a history shared by every South African; and
indeed by every human being across the world who has hoped for
liberty, championed dignity and dreamed of a future in which we all
are global citizens with equal value and equal access to
I regret that that dream is far from
accomplished in our world today.
Even now in South Africa people struggle
under the burden of poverty, racism, sexism and discrimination.
Although we are leagues ahead of where we were 150, 100 or even 50
years ago, there are still embedded patterns of thought within our
society that manifest in the abuse of women and children and the
prevalence of criminality. It is thus serendipitous that our
celebration today takes place during South Africa's 16 days of
activism against abuse and violence towards women and children.
I believe that the Sivananda Peace Pillars
are a reminder to us of the ideals towards which we strive. These
are the very ideals of the pioneers in our society, who sacrificed
and struggled to achieve a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic
South Africa. I am privileged, at my age, to have known many of these
pioneers and to have called them my friends. Among them I count
Monty Naicker and Yusuf Dadoo, whose rallies in Nichols Square I
attended as a student, and also the late Yellan Chinsamy, and Ismail
and Fatima Meer.
During the years when apartheid banned
blacks from staying in hotels, my wife and I often stayed at the
home of the late Dr Mohamed Mayat and his lovely wife, Zuleikha, as
well as at the home of Pat and Sakunthalay Poovalingham. Among my
good friends are Logan Reddy, Steve Moodley and Prim Iyer.
Many have done so much for the upliftment of
black people in this Province, such as Mr Ramlutchman, Mr Vivian
Reddy and Mr Rajan Reddy, as have organisations like the Divine Life
Society, the Indian Education Committee and the Lockat Family Trust.
I feel intensely the absence amongst us of my friend and mentor,
Swamiji Sahajananda of the Divine Life Society, after such a long
relationship spanning several decades. I must also mention the
Laganparsad family, Nessa and Anita Branpakash, and Mr SV Naicker.
The IFP has been blessed with great minds, like Narend Singh,
Ibrahim Bawa and Dr Usha Roopnarain.
If we were to name all the giants of our
past and the heroes of our present within the Indian community, our
time today would be entirely taken up. There are too many to
mention. The contribution of Indians cannot be limited to our long
liberation struggle, or to the social transformation of our nation,
for it extends into every field of human endeavour. Indians in South
Africa have benefitted the diverse fields of medicine, law,
politics, religion, music, art, education, business and industry.
Ours is a nation of pioneers. I must mention
that, this year, we also commemorate the awarding of the Nobel Peace
Prize to Inkosi Albert Mvumbi Luthuli, the first African recipient
of this prestigious award.
Indeed, this evening I shall attend the
launch of a book which details his life, for I was close to Inkosi
Luthuli for many years and considered him my mentor. Our friendship
was cemented during my time at the University of Natal, where I
attended classes with the late Professor Fatima Meer. She was born
in the heart of politics, in Grey Street in Durban where political
education classes were held at Lakhani Chambers in the fifties and
From a young age I was steeped in politics
and I became politically active in the ANC Youth League by the age
of 19, so much so that I was rusticated from the University of Fort
Hare for participating in a boycott. But my political ideologies
were forged in the same mould as those of Inkosi Luthuli, who
followed the teachings of passive resistance and non-violence, which
were taught by the Mahatma Gandhi.
The Mahatma was assassinated the very year I
entered Fort Hare University.
Throughout my life I have embraced the
philosophy of Satyagraha, or truth force, which he brought to South
Africa and by which he led the campaign against discriminatory
legislation in South Africa from 1893 to 1913. The history of South
Africa was changed by Gandhi's presence on our soil and the founders
of the ANC were influenced by his ideas.
But South Africa also set the course for the
life's work of Mohandas Gandhi, who took back to India the seeds of
a campaign of civil disobedience which he launched as the President
of the Indian National Congress. Thus the history of South Africa
and the history of India intertwined once again.
We know that, today, South Africa hosts the
largest Indian Diaspora in the world. Yet it is somehow strange to
think of South Africa as a host, when the roots of the Indian
community in our soil go back three and four generations. I know
that there is no lack of patriotism among the Indian community.
Indeed, love of country is not the exclusive domain of natives which
we all are, but of everyone who has chosen to give their blood,
sweat and toil to making South Africa great. And, in more than half
a century in politics and public life, I have witnessed first hand
the remarkable dedication of Indian men and women to the success of
I served for many years as the Chief
Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government and benefitted from the
commitment of my Indian colleagues to serving our people and
uplifting their sense of dignity, when the apartheid regime was
intent on crushing our spirit. I led the KwaZulu Legislative
Assembly to establish the Buthelezi Commission, on which several
Indian Commissioners served, such as Mr AM Moola of the South
African Indian Council, Mr HJ Hendrickse of the Labour Party, Mr YS
Chinsamy of the Reform Party and Mr Armichand Rajbansi of the
Building on the Buthelezi Commission, we
established the KwaZulu/Natal Indaba in 1986, to initiate provincial
constitutional talks. The Indaba brought together the KwaZulu
Government, the Natal provincial Government, political parties,
commercial and industrial leaders, religious and cultural
organisations and rate payers associations. Out of this exercise, we
birthed South Africa's first non-racial, non-discriminatory
government, the KwaZulu-Natal Joint Executive Authority, giving the
example of how governance by all, for all could be achieved.
Through these initial steps in our struggle
for democracy, and throughout my time as Minister of Home Affairs in
the Government of National Unity, I cherished my friendships with
Indian colleagues, comrades and advisers. When the IFP was at the
helm of the provincial government in this Province, we worked well
together and achieved a great deal for the people we serve. Even
now, as the official opposition, and from our seats in the national
Parliament, the IFP benefits from having a shared vision that
blacks, Indians, coloureds, whites and everyone of goodwill can
embrace and work towards.
We have walked a long road together as one
community. The Indian people suffered the same tribulations we
endured as black South Africans, by and large to the same degree. Of
course, the hierarchy of indignities was entrenched in the apartheid
system, so that Nelson Mandela received African type of food on
Robben Island, while Indian and coloured inmates received slightly
better food, and whites enjoyed a proper meal.
But these degrees of discrimination were
also intended to compound our oppression. So I suppose it was little
solace to our Indian and coloured brothers that they were allowed to
drink liquor! The efforts to drive a wedge between us often failed
significantly, for Indians have done a great deal for blacks. In
particular, Indians have provided many jobs, and this is appreciated
by all of us.
As we pay tribute to the Indian indentured
labourers who settled in South Africa 150 years ago, let us also
celebrate the vision of a just, prosperous and stable society. For
this is the vision that inspired our forebears and the very vision
which inspires us to continue their work. I wish to thank the
Honourable Minister for recognizing that this vision is shared. I
also take this opportunity to publically offer my support and best
wishes on his new appointment, as I have already done in private.
After so many decades, not a single Indian is not an indigene of
May the Pioneer Peace Park and the Sivananda
Peace Pillar remind us, and future generations, that the cause of
freedom is worthy of our greatest efforts.
I thank you.
Liezl van der Merwe
Press Secretary to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
082 729 2510