30 January 2012

This year marks 64 years since the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

He is a renowned champion of peace with a mind imbued with a strong sense of humility and a great spirit of ‘ubuntu'.

Gandhi is one of the icons honoured in the Sunday Times Heritage Project (STHP), an initiative aimed at celebrating extra-ordinary beings and events in the South African calendar over the last century.

Born as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on the 2nd of October 1869 in a coastal town called Porbandar in India, Gandhi grew to become a well-respected person for his contribution to peace in the world.

He was raised in a deeply religious family where he absorbed his religious principles. These included compassion for other beings, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance among individuals of different creeds.

A law graduate from University College in London he moved to South Africa in 1893, aged 24, to work as a legal representative for the Muslim Indian Traders based in the city of Pretoria.

After experiencing various forms of racism Gandhi decided to use his legal knowledge and religious discipline in social justice activism. This led to a great emancipation of the marginalised minority Indian community in South Africa at the time. He helped form the Natal Indian Congress and the Transvaal Indian Congress which saw Indians becoming a united political force.

Gandhi was well known for his commitment to non-violent protest guided by the methodology of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth).

It is widely reported that there were several assassination attempts against Gandhi, which were eventually successful on 30 January 1948 when he was shot dead at point blank range.

Gandhi was apparently attending a prayer meeting when he was killed by an extremist linked to the Hindu Mahasabha who blamed Gandhi for weakening India through his principles.

SAHA is in possession of copious material relating to Gandhi during his time in South Africa. See the listing below:

AL2573 The Tolstoy Farm Collection
AL2421 The Natal Indian Congress

AL2563 The Transvaal Indian Congress
AL3282 The Sunday Times Heritage Project (STHP)

You can also visit his memorial page on the SAHA-hosted STHP website by clicking here.

Other icons featured on the STHP site:

Duma Nokwe (Died 12 January 1978)
Nokwe became South Africa's first black advocate in 1956 and faced many challenges as a black lawyer during the height of apartheid. He was an activist within the structures of the African National Congress. He died in exile on the 12th of January 1978. Read more on Duma here.

Tsietsi Mashinini (Born 27 January 1957)
A key organiser of the 1976 student march that ended in a bloodbath when police assaulted the unarmed learners who were protesting against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools. Tsietsi also died while living in exile in Guinea in July 1990.
He was born on January 27, 1957. Read more on Tsietsi here.