Johannesburg: Three South African ‘Pravasi Samman' awardees highlighted the deep ties between India and their home country at a reception hosted by the Consul General for India in Johannesburg, Mahesh Kumar, to mark the country's Republic Day.
Veteran struggle activist and former Minister in the Presidency Dr Essop Pahad said it was always a special privilege to attend any celebration hosted by the Indian missions in South Africa because the relationship with India went back to the time of Mahatma Gandhi's two-decade tenure in South Africa.
“In my view, probably the oldest party-to-party relations in the world is between the Indian National Congress and the Congress movement in South Africa that goes back to the 1880s, even before the support that India gave to the (now ruling) African National Congress (ANC),” Pahad said.
“Never forget that the father of Indian independence, Gandhi, started his struggle in South Africa and this is where he learnt the importance of mobilising the masses in the movement itself,” he said.
India has always been a very firm supporter of the Congress movement and the ANC for many years. It was the first country in the world to impose sanctions on South Africa because of apartheid at a great economic cost to itself, Pahad noted.
“So, our ties are very deep, very strong and we will always be grateful to India for the support it has rendered to us for over a hundred years,” Pahad said.
A colleague of Pahad, Prema Naidoo, recalled that his grandfather, Thambi Naidoo, had been Gandhi's lieutenant during the South African struggle. “India was one of the first countries to be liberated from British colonialism and we all looked up to India. In these 75 years, we looked up to some of India's great leaders like Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Subash Chandra Bose and many others. Unfortunately, today nothing is said about them, but they played an important role in the struggle for liberation in India,” he said.
Naidoo said, although he did not support the current government in India, the country was doing well in the global economy and people's lives were improving.
“In terms of people-to-people relations, those bonds need to and will always continue,” Naidoo said.
Mohan Hira, who received the Pravasi Samman award recently from President Droupadi Murmu in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, said he is happy that India is now one of the top countries in the world.
“I am proudly South African because my grandfather and my father all took the fruits of this country, but I still have roots in India, with family and property in Gujarat and I do visit them regularly,” Hira added....