Durban - KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala has described Swami Gounden as an activist who took part in many struggles in his life.
During a virtual address at Gounden’s funeral at the Clare Estate Crematorium in Durban yesterday he said that “there was nowhere where they did not see comrade Swami”.
Zikalala was making reference to the major turning points in the country’s political history at which the late Swami Gounden was present. Gounden was also one of the last surviving members present at the signing of the Freedom Charter at the Kliptown Conference in Soweto in 1955.
Gounden became a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1944 and attended meetings concerning the party and country well into his retirement. He died on Tuesday at the age of 94.
Gounden, despite his prominence in South African politics, remained a humble human being, according to those paying tribute to him.
Zikalala said: “He was there to support the children of Soweto, Langa, Gugulethu, Lamontville, Orient High, Merebank and Chatsworth in 1976 and again when they rose in revolt in 1980. He was there when the United Democratic Front was launched in 1983.
“He was there to receive comrades Billy Nair, Curnick Ndlovu and scores of others when they were released from Robben Island. He was there to bid comrade Riot Mkhwanazi farewell, at rallies, at the TRC, at the Moerane Commission, working in the branches of his movement and very importantly in the civic structures in his local community.
“Comrade Swami believed in the vision of the Freedom Charter that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. He dedicated his life to attainment of the demands of the Freedom Charter and the attainment of democracy on the basis of one person one vote which was a key demand from the thousands of demands that had been collected throughout the Congress of the People campaign which spanned nearly two years.
“Comrade Swami lived in the same modest home in Asherville for 66 years. Comrade Swami was born of the people and a man of the people. We must take a lesson from his life as we rebuild and renew our society.”
Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said during his virtual address that he had lost a friend, mentor and guide.
Gordhan, who said Swami was a close family friend, said the late stalwart served as his mentor during his activist years. He said Swami Gounden left behind footprints that few would recognise.
“I have lost a friend, a mentor and a guide. Throughout my activist years he played a phenomenal role in guiding us,” Gordhan said.
He said that the late Swami’s mental sharpness at an old age was something to marvel at.
“He was a builder, an organiser and a contributor.”
KZN MEC for Economic Development Ravi Pillay and Provincial Executive Committee member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) Joe Nene also paid tribute to Gounden.
Pillay and Swami’s son, Dr Vasu Gounden, who is also the director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, said Gounden was disheartened at the civil unrest that took place in July, where racial tensions between black and Indian communities peaked.
A total of 36 people were killed in Phoenix, six in Chatsworth and two in the Mountain Rise area, in what are believed to be racially motivated killings according to police.
Durban businessman Vivian Reddy said: “He was very passionate about this country, about the culture. His humility was so great. I know when he received the award for the president, he was still as humble as ever. I’ll always remember him for his great personality and his sense of humour.”
The SACP also paid tribute to their long-time member, saying he refused to give up the fight.
“Determined to make his contributions to the liberation of the people, Comrade Swami refused to abide by the apartheid regime’s dictatorship. He continued his activism among the masses, taking part in many community activities in resistance to apartheid. In 1983, he defied the regime’s barring and attended the launch of the United Democratic Front in Cape Town and became an active member of the UDF, attending meetings and speaking on public forums,” the SACP said.