24 October 2018

Malawians Get Injunction Against Mahatma Ghandi Statue

A group of Malawians have obtained a court injunction against the construction of a statue of India's independence leader Mahatma Gandhi in Blantyre, arguing it was irrelevant and unnecessary.

The statue in the commercial capital Blantyre is being erected as part of a deal for India to construct a $10 million convention center.

High Court officials in Blantyre have confirmed the existence of the court injunction just two days after the government suspended the construction of the statue.

Veteran broadcaster and diplomat Lucius Chikuni welcomed the decision by some Malawians to get a court injunction to halt the construction of the statue.

"I don't agree with the decision to erect the statue here in Blantyre or elsewhere in Blantyre. Ghandi was fighting for the freedom of Indians not Malawians or Africans," said Chikuni.

He said it was sad that the government of Malawi was arrogant over the matter, saying two or three people cannot make decisions overriding the majority.

A governance expert Saunders Juma said time to honour Indians was up, saying they have helped plunder the Malawi economy through corruption.

"These Indians look down upon Malawians. If the government insists on erecting it, we will demolish it," he said.

Both the ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Blantyre City Council have been elusive to comment on the matter.

Malawi's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the Gandhi statue aims to recognize his role in the struggle against colonialism.

Gandhi's non-violent fight against British rule in India inspired numerous independence and civil rights movements and leaders across the globe - from Martin Luther King in the United States to Nelson Mandela's struggle against South African apartheid.

Construction of Malawi's Gandhi monument began in August on a street already named after the Indian leader.

Along with the statue, the Indian government is building the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Center in Blantyre.

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition opposing a planned statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Malawi's commercial capital Blantyre, saying the Indian independence hero had done nothing for the southern African country.

"Mahatma Gandhi has never contributed anything to Malawi´s struggle for independence and freedom," a statement from the "Gandhi Must Fall" group said.

"We therefore, feel that the statue is being forced upon the people of Malawi and is the work of a foreign power aiming at promoting its image and dominion on the unsuspecting people of Malawi."

The petitioners claim that Gandhi, who early in his career practised in South Africa and fought against apartheid-era segregation laws, was racist.

However, Information minister Nicholas Dausi was tight lipped during an on the reasons behind the suspension of the construction of the statue of the Indian freedom activist.

Dausi said he does not believe that Gandhi was a racist because of racial slurs he made as a young man..

"This just a storm in a tea cup. It is just being perpetrated by bad people. It is just drawn out of proportion," Dausi said.

Malawi and India established diplomatic ties in 1964 and New Delhi is one of the country's biggest donors.


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