Item 1156 - First Draft of Madiba's Speech- Gandhi Centenary

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ZA COM MR-S-1156

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First Draft of Madiba's Speech- Gandhi Centenary

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  • 1993-05-01 - 1993-05-31 (May-93)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare

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Gandhi Centenary

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  • English

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TRANSCRIPT

We who were born in the lifetime of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi have a special obligation to cherish his memory and to bequeath his legacy to succeeding generations. It is therefore a special privilege for me to join with you in this centenary celebration of Gandhi's arrival in South Africa.

This celebration ought to be a reaffirmation. In the words of his great comrade and friend, Jawaharlal Nehru, we can best honour the Mahatma by promoting those values for which he lived and died.

Gandhiji was a devoutly religious man. But this Hindu sage affirmed Islam and Christianity as equally valid paths to the truth. He stressed the affinity of all religions and their equality. It was he who pointed out that the colonial Europeans feared Islam most, because Islam stressed the commonality of creation, and the irrelevance of racial classifications,

For Bapu, religion was not simply a matter of personal striving; it was a form of social and political praxis. He saw an inter-connectedness between ethics and politics, moral renewal and social transformation, spiritual and political liberation. This insight led him to seek revolutionary change simultaneously in oppressive human relationships, social structures and ways of thinking and feeling. Thus he appeared to millions of oppressed people throughout the world indivisibly as political leader, social reformer, revolutionary and redeemer.

Gandhiji was an idealist, for he envisioned life as it could be. But he did not neglect method, Indeed, he fashioned a unique method of purposive action, which gave dignity to the masses of people - to the plantation workers in Natal, the peasants in Bihar, the coal miners in Newcastle by involving them in their own liberation. Gandhi remains one of this century's most eloquent protagonists of non-violent mass action and critic of political elitism. Gandhi earned the warm affection of his people by merging himself with them, becoming inseparable from them. This explains his emphasis on simplicity in his personal life and his egalitarian social philosophy. Gandhi opposed violence in all its forms, including the violence inherent in modes of --economic organisation which produce both opulent wealth and crushing poverty, affluence and squalor.

Above all, Gandhiji is remembered for his steadfast opposition to colonial power structures through persistent campaigns of non-cooperation and civil disobedience. He is without doubt one of this century's most outstanding figures. Few in his lifetime, and after, have aroused such strong emotions, or struck deeper chords.

We South Africans, then, are privileged that this Great Soul came to this country one hundred years ago this month to become part of our history, our legacy. A decision in the ordinary course to do legal work for a Muslim merchant turned out to be a decision of great historical significance. It is here that he first experimented with truth; here that he demonstrated his characteristic firmness in pursuit of justice; here that he developed satyagraha as a philosophy and method of struggle. On Tolstoy Farm, resisters and their families learned a tolerant and non-exploitative way of life. On the Phoenix Settlement he established the newspaper Indian Opinion, which has become an invaluable social record of the struggles of South Africans of Indian origin for dignity, social justice and political rights. The Indian Congresses, which have their origin in this period, were fashioned by Gandhi as instruments - with the assistance of people like Thambi Naidoo, Parsi Rustomji, E I Asvat and Ahmed Mohammed Cachalia - for achieving Hindu-Muslim unity, in a just cause.

Gandhi's inestimable legacy has an immediate relevance in contemporary South Africa. His steadfast opposition to all forms of communalism in politics has a resonance in the ANC's opposition to tribalism and ethnic division in politics. Gandhiji abhorred racism -and resisted this aberration wherever he encountered it. Racism is a form of untouchability for it ranks human beings according to morally irrelevant, immutable characteristics. Bapu affirmed the moral integrity of all individuals and their entitlement to equal concern and respect. He did not hesitate, furthermore, to criticise the oppression of women by tradition, while affirming his fidelity to custom. Gandhiji also combined negotiation and mass action. He negotiated in good faith and without bitterness. But when the oppressor reneged he returned to mass resistance. I wonder whether there is anybody present here who is old enough to remember the resumption of satyagraha with the burning of registration certificates at the Harnidie Mosque in August 1902, after the Transvaal Government had breached its promise to repeal the "Black Act"?

Gandhi is most revered for his commitment to non-violence as an inviolable principle. The Congress movement in South Africa was clearly strongly influenced by this Gandhian emphasis on non-violence, primarily as a rational method of involving large numbers of people in active resistance. For much of our history and throughout the
1960's we persisted with hartals (boycotts). The 1952 defiance campaign, in particular, which was jointly organised by the ANC and the Indian Congresses was based on earlier satyagraha campaigns. In 1960, however, after the Sharpeville Massacre and the bannings of organisations and individuals, we initiated the armed struggle. I remain convinced that there was at that point no possibility of a moral revolution in the hearts of the oppressor, for their ideology was based on the denial of the humanity of the oppressed majority. Their bestiality and extreme oppression of our people justified armed resistance as a last resort.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the courage of the young men and women who joined MK out of high-mindedness. They made a critically important contribution to our people's struggle for national liberation. But satyagraha never lost its resistance, although in itself it was insufficient in the South African context. The corrosive, bloody violence now sweeping our communities and our country teaches us again, however, the value of peace, both as method and goal. Our society needs a Gandhian commitment to end all forms of violence. I take this opportunity, once again, to plead for peace and to urge a revival of the Ghandian voice and of Ghandian institutions.

Ghandi's successors - pre-eminently Dr Dadoo and Dr Naicker, together with Dr Xuma, committed the Indian community and the African people to joint action in March 1947 in the struggle for democracy and nationhood. The ANC and the Indian Congresses subsequently became firm allies.

The Congress in South Africa and the Congress in India, apart from sharing the Ghandian legacy, have a common ideological heritage and firm fraternal links. We have received invaluable material and diplomatic assistance from the governments of both India and Pakistan. India has been largely responsible for placing and maintaining the apartheid issue on the permanent agenda of the United Nations. In the 407s, long before the ANC's call, the Indian government unilaterally severed all diplomatic and economic links with South Africa In an expression of solidarity with all South Africa's oppressed people. Few may be aware that when Oliver Tambo and Dr Dadoo left South Africa to continue the struggle in exile, Nehru provided them with Indian travel documents. The South African people undoubtedly owe a debt of gratitude to the Indian government and people.

I urge the Indian community to build on these foundations in the coming period; to remember our Joint struggles; to celebrate our shared convictions; to affirm our common aspirations; to honour the memory of Gandhi, Villiama, Fort Calata, Solomon Mahlangu, Babla Saloojee, Ahmed Timor, Chris Hani, Ruth First Imam Haroon, Steve Biko, Hector Peterson: the roll of honour is infinite.

The African people have been oppressed in our country, and on our land for more than 300 years. But we were never crushed. In our oppression, we nurtured an African humanism and held before this country and all its people an inclusive, non-racial democratic vision. This, above all, is what the coming election is all about. Your right to belong as part of the South African nation; your right not to be stigmatized on account of your colour; your right to be counted as citizen in the country of your birth. Amandla!

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 18/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata

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