Mbeki Recalls Gandhi Legacy

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(Mbeki has sought to broaden powerful South Africa's global trade outreach. Here shown, on a different occasion, with India's Singh and Brazil's Lula).

Visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his host President Thabo Mbeki recalled Mahatma Gandhi's legacy and how its practice in today’s South Africa, in a series of public events here.

The two leaders garlanded a plaque of Gandhi in Durban recently in a fitting tribute to the apostle of non-violence and peace whose principles of truth and non-violence, whose thoughts and ideas roused the conscience of Black South Africans. The influence of Gandhi in Black South African politics was also relived when Mbeki and Singh unveiled a plaque of Gandhi at Resistance Park where prominent South African anti-apartheid activists inspired by the Indian spiritual leader in 1946 briefly occupied a plot of land reserved for whites challenging the brutal and racist Ghetto Act.

It’s becoming a tradition for Indian leaders and their people to travel to South Africa on pilgrimage visiting sites associated with Gandhi who once lived in South Africa from 1893 to 1915 and launched his passive resistance movement in Johannesburg on September 11, 1906 when he led protests against laws restricting the free movement of Indian immigrants. The protests happened just six years before the African National Congress was founded in 1912. Singh also visited the South African railway station where Mahatma Gandhi was thrown out of a white’s only train compartment launching his political career, which led to the birth of India's independence.

"I do not know of two countries that share a leader and hero like we do," said Mbeki.  With his influence, thoughts and ideas, India finally gained independence in 1947. Mahatma Gandhi's larger-than-life personality has attracted a lot of interest among historians in much the same way as that of Dr Martin Luther King, the Black civil rights leader.

Gandhi was humble and it is said that he often slept on the floor and cleaned his own latrine -unusual for a London-educated barrister who rubbed shoulders with heads of state and millionaires often winning their political and financial support for India's freedom movement.

Only six months after India's independence on August 15 1947, Gandhi was assassinated at a prayer meeting by a man who bent down to touch his feet, as if to seek Gandhi's blessings, before shooting him dead.

Tsiko is The Black Star News' Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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