Durban - India’s Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, believes that South Africans need to pay heed to Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence now more than ever.
Swaraj was the guest of honour at a commemorative dinner for Gandhi held at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Wednesday.
Thursday marks 125 years since Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement was born.
“Both Gandhi and Mandela gave hope to this Earth. They gave hope to those facing injustice and discrimination. They gave hope to those developing countries. They gave hope to generations to come by ensuring that their values and principles are forever enshrined in our constitution and our lives,” she said.
Dignitaries from India and South Africa gathered at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall for the dinner, which was hosted by the High Commission of India South Africa, and supported by the Indian Ministries of External Affairs and Culture, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Memorial Committee.
Among the guests were former eThekwini speaker Logie Naidoo, businessmen Dr Iqbal Surve, Vivian Reddy and Kay Makan, and Gandhi’s granddaughter, Ela Gandhi.
Swaraj said Gandhi was evicted from the first-class whites-only train cabin at the Pietermaritzburg train station 125 years ago. The incident transformed his life and “shook the foundations of the world”.
“His story is of unbound determination and courage. India was the first country to sever trade agreements with South Africa.
“Today as we stand on the doorstep of a new India, it gives us immense pride, because both our leaders, Gandhi and Madiba, paved the way. I am honoured to be here in Pietermaritzburg to celebrate this moment,” she said.
Aroo Naidoo, president of the Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Memorial Committee, said Gandhi had influenced the course of global history, but it was the train incident that led to his philosophy of non-violence.