A quiet giant, comrade, mentor and a friend - Struggle stalwarts pay tribute to Charm Govender
A quiet giant, comrade, mentor and a friend.
This is how friends and struggle activists remembered the life of Charm Govender during a virtual memorial on Sunday to pay tribute and to celebrate his life.
Govender passed away in the early hours of Monday, March 22.
Govender, born in Durban in 1961, did part of his schooling in the UK and South Africa.
He wrote his matric in London in 1980 and was accepted to study at the then University of Durban-Westville (UDW), now part of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Govender was very active in student politics along with his future spouse, Maggie Govender, who is a member of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature.
His activism spanned from the Natal Indian Congress to the student movement, community and the ANC.
In democratic South Africa, he served the government in the South African Revenue Service but also continued his community service in the Gandhi Development Trust, the Kharwastan Civic Association, the Satyagraha newspaper, the Monty Naicker Commemoration Committee and others.
Fellow activist Important Mkhize, who with Govender was also part of Operation Vula, said the news of Govender’s death left many shocked and devastated.
“Charm is a well-known and committed revolutionary activist. The SACP released a comprehensive statement on Charm. It was complimentary in describing him as a freedom fighter, activist, and someone who had an ability to master revolutionary operational work. His participation in Operation Vula is testament to this. He understood the principle of non-racialism. His activism was not restricted to his area of residence, Chatsworth, but others. That is how mass mobilisation was conducted.
Former Minister of Communications Yunus Carrim said Govender’s death had left a vacuum. “In Covid times we are getting used to death but Charm’s death, not Covid related, had an impact on us all. I met him in the 80s and we were part of an NIC delegation that met the ANC. From the late 90s our paths drifted but when you met him, it was like yesterday. His consistency is what our movement needs more than ever,” Carrim said.
Sipho Magwaza, a former intelligence operative who spent almost two decades in the army and the KZN chairperson of the ANC integrity commission and speaking on behalf of ANC veterans, said Govender was the epitome of integrity.
“For all of us who had an opportunity to brush shoulders with him, he was a rare breed...an almost perfect human being, a true cadre as defined by Che Guevara. Quoting Guevara, Magwaza said Govender was a ‘person of ideological and administrative discipline’.
“His first duty was to be educated to think logically.
“The history of revolution would not have been completed without his name being mentioned. He was hands on and knowledgeable, and his face was always behind the curtain. As a humble and disciplined cadre of MK at one rally I came across Charm, Maggie and their family sitting on the grass. He was down to earth and it was not strange to see him replacing a VVIP card around his neck with a camera.”
Lechesa Tsenoli, the deputy speaker of parliament, said many who worked with Govender were stunned. “This has happened when you need more comrades of his temperament. He was a calming feature in spite of the risks we all faced. Charm’s integrity and ethical conduct is a sorely needed feature.”
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said Govender’s life needed to be celebrated.
“Many of his qualities as an activist and person need to be highlighted for future generations.
“He was a father to two boys who he was extremely proud of and who he nurtured into fine young men. He was a son and his mother was very proud of him. To many, he was a reliable and responsible comrade and was always at hand to contribute, assist and take on responsibility with meticulousness.”