#amaQhawe: Swaminathan Gounden - A lifetime of sacrifice

Swaminathan Gounden

Swaminathan Gounden

Published Apr 27, 2018


Braised cabbage curry sandwiches and hot tea.

That's all Swaminathan Gounden's wife Savanthalay could think of giving the three policemen who arrived at her Asherville, Durban home to arrest her husband in 1964. 

Instead of wishing her husband well as he went of to his day job at Child Welfare, Savanthalay had taken all the bread she had, and began making sandwiches for the burly policemen who came to take her husband away to jail for allegedly contravening the Suppression of Communism Act.


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Her two teenage children were also present. 

"When I saw the policemen I knew they were coming to arrest me and I asked them if I could wash my face, as I was getting ready to go to work," recalled Swaminathan.They told me that I could wash my face, but I was definitely not going to work."

After brushing his teeth with charcoal, Swaminathan said he stepped into the kitchen and found a whole plate of sandwiches. 

"When I questioned my wife why there were so many sandwiches ,she replied in Tamil 'If they take you they will look after you.' That was her logic for feeding the police," said the great-grandfather laughing. 

"Despite the tasty curry sandwiches I still went with the policeman and spent the next 3 months in jail," said Swaminathan who added that even water was a luxury during his time behind bars. Involved in the struggle since 1944, Swaminathan said it was not only his sacrifices but that of his wife who died in 2008, and his 2 children who also paid the price.

"My wife knew everything, I think at times she didn't want me going to underground meetings, fearing for my safety, but she had no choice. I was too passionate about the struggle."

Swaminathan's passion continues to drive him and at the age of 90, he will receive the Order of Luthuli in silver by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday. The order is awarded to a South African who has significantly contributed to the freedom Struggle, human rights, nation-building, justice and conflict resolution.

"I will continue working until my death," he concluded. 

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