SA, India to commemorate Ghandi train incident

Thursday, June 7, 2018

South Africa and India are commemorating the 125th anniversary of the eviction of Mahatma Gandhi at the Pietermaritzburg railway station.

Gandhi arrived in South Africa as a young lawyer in 1893 and shortly after his arrival, he booked a first class ticket on the train to Pretoria, where he was to undertake business on behalf of the legal firm where he was employed.

On a cold June day, 07 June 1893, he was forcibly removed by the rail authorities in Pietermaritzburg from the first class compartment and thrown off the train following a complaint from one of the passengers. He subsequently spent the night in the station’s waiting room.

Commemoration events, which will be attended by India’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, have been planned.

These include a visit to Durban were Swaraj will be joined by Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Province, Willies Mchunu and the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Luwellyn Landers.

On Wednesday, Swaraj visited the Phoenix Settlement near Durban, which served as Gandhi's home during his stay in South Africa.

“The commemoration of the train incident in Pietermaritzburg allows the two countries to look back and re-affirm the need to eradicate racism, the scourge of which continues in our societies 125 years later,” Dirco said on Wednesday.

This event initiated Ghandi’s contemplations of racial discrimination and represented the beginning of his philosophy of Satyagraha (truth-force) and Ahimsa (pressure for social and political reform through passive resistance).

This philosophy became one of the greatest political tools of the twentieth century, influencing the civil rights movement in the United States and the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa.

South Africa and India enjoy a Strategic Partnership and bilateral relations are anchored by a deep and shared history of friendship and solidarity.

This year witnesses the 25th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations which have evolved at a rapid pace.

According to Dirco, India is currently South Africa’s second-largest trading partner in Asia and ranks amongst South Africa’s top ten trade partners. In 2017, bilateral trade reached R107 billion,

“The ties between both countries are cemented by the foundation laid by the two icons; Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. South Africa was central to forging Gandhi’s identity as a political activist and his time here was an important prelude in developing his thinking prior to his return to India,” the department said.

President Mandela later acknowledged that the values of tolerance, mutual respect and unity for which Gandhi stood and acted had a profound impact on South Africa’s own liberation movement and on his own thinking.

Dirco said both Mandela and Gandhi were visionary leaders who were ahead of their times.

Modern day India, with its extraordinary economic growth and development, and South Africa, have carved a niche as influential global players, as witnessed by the roles in BRICS, IORA, IBSA and the G20, as well as within the United Nations system. –