2013-07-17 / .

We Salute a Heroic Warrior, Statesman and the Architect of his beloved countrys Non-Racial Democracy By Dr.Cyriac Maprayil

Mandela, once the World’s Most Famous Prisoner and later the First President of a democratic, non racial and non-sexist South Africa will be remembered for many colossal achievements. He rejected revenge for reconciliation, fought as tenaciously against white racism as he did black nationalism which demanded Nuremburg –style trial of the men and women, leaders and police and military chiefs who master-minded one of the most brutal police states in history and against all the odds created a new, civilised democratic order in which Africans, Europeans, Coloured and Indians largely co-exist peacefully.

Unlike his successors, many of whom have their noses deep in the troughs of the most nauseating corruption, Nelson Mandela’s hands are spotlessly clean.

Unlike many of the thugs, thieves and despots in most African countries who forcibly imposed themselves on their people as Presidents for Life and destroyed democracy, Mandela was only one of two leaders, the other being Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, who graciously retired after a single term as President of the Republic of South Africa. He could have clung on to the Presidency but a disregard for democracy was totally alien to his moral and political nature.

Mandela however was not always a believer in non racialism. As a fiery young nationalist prominent in the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) he, too, was swept away by the fierce tides of racial intolerance, which to be fair, was an understandable reaction to white racism.At this stage Nelson Mandela was also anti-Indian despite the efforts of some Indian leaders, particularly Marxist radicals, to forge a united African-Indian front against their mutual oppressor. Indians, he argued, could not be trusted because they belonged to the shop-keeping class and was in cahoots with white racism, despite the fact that the Indians, too, were victims of racism.It was only later when he familiarised himself with the Indian political predicament that Mandela admitted that he had been wrong in dismissing Indians as shopkeepers. He soon found that the Indians most of whom lived below the poverty datum line were just as disadvantaged as their African brethren.

When in the 1930s Indira Gandhi, then a student, stopped at Durban, South Africa on her way to India from England by ship, she was met by two sets of Indians – representatives of the merchant-controlled reactionary National Indian Congress and mainly young pro-African Marxists. Indira refused an invitation by the merchants to a reception in their honour openly condemning them for what she believed was their shameless appeasement of the racist colony of Natal. Instead, she approved of the resistance of the Marxist radicals who took her on a guided tour of the Indian ghettos and African slums. An outraged

Indira, shocked by the appalling condition of the indentured workers in their ghettoes and the African

slums said: “It will take another thirty or forty years but the African people’s struggle for freedom will be victorious.”Indira must have briefed her father about the ugly and offensive South African reality for among the first acts of the Nehru government after independence was to champion the cause of the oppressed colonial people, particularly those in South Africa.At that time, India was represented diplomatically by an Indian High Commission in Pretoria and CapeTown and both countries had a highly profitable trading relationship.

In 1949 in the worstrace riots in Commonwealth history, gangs of Africans attacked Indian areas, burning looting and raping at will. India took a strong stand and admonished the South African nationalist government for doing nothing to protect the Indians. Many whites joined theAfrican rioters

particularly in looting Indian-owned shops. Some big firms, multinational and local, provided petrol and material assistance to the rioters. Hundreds of Indians were killed, many women were kidnapped and raped and millions of pounds of Indian property destroyed.

The Indian Government demanded punitive action against South Africa. Nehru’s sister, the eloquent anti-racist Mrs. Vijayalakshmi Pandit, took the issue to the United Nations where its General assembly passed a near unanimous vote condemning apartheid.

Mandela was still a young agitator in the ANC Youth League when the Indians and African signed what was called the Xuma-Dadoo Naicker unity pact which, for the first time in South African history, brought Africans and Indians together under a single banner in the fight against racist oppression. This did not go down well with the Nationalist Government which together with its own media and some English language newspapers, tried to incite Africans against the Indians. Nelson Mandela, though suspicious at first, acknowledged the importance of Indian-African unity and began to work closely with Dr. Yusuf Mohammed Dadoo, the President of the South African Indian Congress. Dadoo and Dr. Monty Naicker, the President of the numerically stronger Natal Indian Congress, won over many influential African leaders in the ANC to their joint cause. As oppression intensified with scores of anti-Indian laws on South Africa’s statute books, the Indians unilaterally launched a Passive Resistance Campaign on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s first Satyaghra campaigns. Hundreds of Indian men and women were imprisoned for their defiance of some pernicious

racist laws. Many Indians suffered injuries from attacks by white racist hooligans and an Indian

policeman was killed. Following the Passive Resistance Campaign, the Indian Government unilaterally broke off diplomatic relations with White South Africa. It recalled its High Commissioner and imposed a total sports, economic and cultural boycott of the apartheid state. India was the first country to do so. Nelson Mandela applauded the Indian decision and welcomed Indian participation in the Defiance Campaign of the early 50s which saw hundreds of African and Indian men and women go to jail for their refusal to submit to inhuman laws. India also welcomed ANC refugees to Delhi and gave generous military, material and moral support to the anti-apartheid struggle. It also encouraged the ANC to set up its own diplomatic office in Delhi. India financed the entire operation. What will happen to the Indians of South Africa once Nelson Mandela finally shuffles off his mortal coil? Will his policy of peaceful co-existence among its people across race

and colour lines endure or will it be blown away by African nationalist extremists. President Jacob Zuma has long been regarded as a warm supporter of non-racial policies. Some of his closest allies are Indian businessmen. One of his chief advisers is an Indian. All things being equal – that is to say economic and political stability is maintained and international public opinion is respected - it is highly unlikely that anti Indian sentiment, strong though it is in some quarters, even in the ANC – that Mandela’s pioneering

work will be undone.

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