Gandhian, who fought for equality in S Africa no more

RSTV Bureau

Mahatma GandhiRenowned Gandhian Mewa Ramgobin, who fought discrimination against Indians in South Africa, is no more. The South African struggle icon and the former president of the Natal Indian Congress was suffering from prolonged illness, breathed his last at a Cape Town hospital on Monday.

83-years-old Ramgobin was married to Ela Gandhi, a human rights activist and Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter.

A former member of South Africa Parliament until 2009, he was among the first supporters of the Release Mandela campaign. He was charged for treason in 1985.

The couple was involved in the activities of the Phoenix Settlement Trust that was established in 1904 by Gandhi near Durban during his tenure in South Africa.

Ramgobin’s role in politics started in his teenage years, and continued when he enrolled at the University of Natal.

New Delhi: Mural painting of Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi Smriti, Tees January Marg, New Delhi.  Photo - Rajat Kain

New Delhi: Mural painting of Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi Smriti, Tees January Marg, New Delhi.
Photo – Rajat Kain

He was among the first to join the Release Mandela Campaign after the infamous treason trial that sent Nelson Mandela to prison for 27 years before he became South Africa’s first democratically-elected president.

Ramgobin faced intense persecution from apartheid-era security forces which banned him for 17 years, many of those under complete house arrest.

He also faced high treason charges after riots broke out in 1994 near the Phoenix Settlement between Indians and the indigenous Zulu community which had lived peacefully side-by side for decades, but was acquitted a year later.

Ramgobin’s commitment to the Gandhian cause saw him establish a Gandhi museum and library, organising the Annual Gandhi Lecture and educate people from different race groups on Gandhian philosophies.

An author of books ‘Waiting To Live’ and ‘Prisms Of Light’, he would have turned 84 on November 10.

In 1983, Ramgobin made international headlines when he and five other members of the resistance movement United Democratic Front sought refuge in the British consulate.

After Mandela’s election, Ramgobin served for several years in the first Parliament of South Africa that was not exclusively white as in the apartheid years.

(With inputs from the PTI)