Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

17 July 2014

South Africa: Op-Ed - Remembering What Gandhi Gave South Africa, a Century Later

analysis

It's been a hundred years since Mahatma Gandhi left South African soil. He went on to alter the course of history in India, but he'd already taught South Africa's oppressed a few lessons in effective, peaceful resistance - and South Africa taught him a few things in return.

Friday 19 July 2014 marks a hundred years since the departure of Mahatma Gandhi from South African soil. It is common knowledge that he had come to our country to represent an Indian firm on a legal matter, but stayed on to launch an impressive campaign of civil disobedience against discriminatory policies and practices faced by Indian indentured labourers and business people in Natal and Transvaal.

Gandhi's Passive Resistance Campaigns of 1907 and 1913 brought him international acclaim. Our late President Mandela referred to this when he delivered a speech in India stating, "You gave us Mohandas [Gandhi]; we returned him to you as Mahatma (meaning 'venerable' in Sanskrit)".

Gandhi first experienced race discrimination in 1893 when he was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg Station because he refused to leave the "whites-only", first-class compartment.

He later said that this was a defining moment in his life, when he...

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