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Source: Kwazulu-Natal Government
Title: Ndebele: Celebrating India
Speech by S'bu Ndebele on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of
India's Republic Day
On the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the India’s
Republic Day celebrations, I greet you in the name of peace.
High Commisioner of India Mr SS Mukherjee, Consul-General Ajay
Swarup, members of the Provincial Legislature comrades from the
ANC, colleagues from the IFP, members of the Royal family,
religious leaders, Namaste, Assalaam wa le kom,. Vanakum, Good
Just the name India conjures up so much. A country with more people
than the whole of Africa put together, Home to the highest mountain
peak, Everest; the world’s best batsman, Sachin Tendulkar and
arguably the most accomplished actor the world has ever seen
– Amitabh Bachan.
The India of the Taj Mahal, of the cleansing powers of the Ganges,
the healing of Tirupati, the silicon valley of Hydrabad, and the
miraculous transformation of Madras into the economic powerhouse of
But India is just not another country with a great history blessed
with so much for us South Africans.
Our struggle for liberation is inextricably bound up with yours.
When you gained independence in 1947, you did not turn inwards.
Your country, when the clock had hardly passed midnight sought the
isolation of the racist South Africa at the United Nations.
When India got her independence in 1947, Jawaralal Nehru, the first
prime minister declared India’s tryst with destiny. He
declared that India would not consider herself free until the whole
of Africa was freed. This tryst, this emotional pact between our
two countries was further enhanced in practical ways.
India established and granted the ANC with diplomatic status more
than 30 years before our own liberation, it went further by
granting Indian passports to our exiled leaders of the ANC. It gave
material support to Umkonto We Sizwe. It supported the Solomon
Mahlangu School in Tanzania among a host of other activities.
The seeds of this tryst for freedom had been sown decades earlier,
when Mahatma Gandhi maintained his links with Doctors Dadoo and
True to the spirit of justice and peace the fight against apartheid
was augmented and strengthened by the people and successive
governments of India. India was the first country in the world to
have sanctions in trade imposed against South Africa. It was India
who took the cause of the oppressed in South Africa to the United
The isolation of apartheid South Africa was spearheaded at the
United Nations and other international forums by India. It was out
of India, under the leadership of Jawarlal Nehru that the
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was born. It gave hope to millions of
the colonised and the ex-colonised. A hope of charting an
independent road to true liberation.
When I travel to the North and South Coast I see the sugarcane
fields. I think about my ancestors who were so cruelly
dispossessed. I think about the Indian indentured labourers who too
were dispossessed from their homeland. I think about their pain and
sacrifice to make a home under barbaric working conditions. How can
I not feel sad?
But when I think that it is this very history that nurtured and
consolidated a bond with India, that runs so deeply today, through
the veins of both of our governments, I am elated.
Today in the era of world co-operation and reconciliation, we need
to build a new tradition. India and SA again are in the forefront
with Brazil to change the face of the world; to change the power
relations at the UN, the IMF and the World Bank.
India continues to lend her active support to ensure the success of
the African Union and the African Renaissance. It builds and
continues to forge ties with South Africa and people of Indian
descent who have left the motherland and others from the
sub-continent continue to come to South Africa.
While issues about crime drive South Africans away from their own
country. It isn’t keeping away the Indian and other people
from the sub-continent from South Africa. Lining the streets in the
local neighbourhoods of Grey Street and Sparks Road you can see
Urdu- and Hindi-speaking men and women running small businesses.
They bring with them a culture which is so rare and rich. Among
them the diasporic Indians think of themselves today, particularly
after the demise of apartheid that had up till now designated their
place in the racial hierarchy, as part for the rainbow
The decisive contributions made by Indians to the political and
economic structure of modern South Africa is incontestable. This is
evident not only in the present leadership of the African National
Congress (with a presence of Indians that far exceeds in proportion
their population vis-a-vis Africans and the so-called coloureds)
but also in other groups going back to the days of the Natal and
the Transvaal Indian Congress’s.
There were so many Indians who, choosing amongst their idols
everyone from Mohandas Gandhi to Steve Biko to Nelson Mandela, had
faced imprisonment and death, fighting apartheid.
Rather than thinking of themselves as a separate people, men and
women of Indian origin had made common cause with Africans and
fought a united fight. When it comes to the question of a struggle
for a non-racial society, Indian South Africans , I believe have
found their place in this society. In fact our Indian brethren
found their place a long time ago. They stood next to their
countrymen and women fighting the oppressor and overcoming the
apartheid machinery. The discovery of such identities for the
Indian communities will begin with a recognition that they form a
part of a mixed majority of people of colour. And that their
success as a group and as a people lies, in large part, in taking a
stance against an unjust society that keeps black and brown
populations disenfranchised and poor.
As the most fledging democracy in the world, India has shown its
colours. Recently, at a conference about the diaspora it paid
tribute to those who come from the motherland and celebrated their
new bonds they have built elsewhere. Indians have made their mark
worldwide fighting oppression.
In South Africa your contribution will always be acknowledged and
recognised. The best teachers are those from the motherland who
started the liberation from oppression. Your democracy remains as
sturdy as its founding fathers – Gandhi and Nehru. Be proud
today. You have a right to be. Thank you January 26, 2004