Mantle of Gandhi has 'descended' on Mandela

Former president Nelson Mandela has thanked India for its immense influence on South Africa’s struggle for freedom from the oppression of apartheid.

That influence was made in particular by Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela told visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the 137th anniversary of Gandhi’s birthday on Monday.

“So we’ll respect them [Indian delegations] and honour them when they come,” Mandela said.

He was bidding Singh farewell after a short meeting at Mandela House—home of the Mandela Foundation—in Houghton.

India had influenced the struggle “a great deal”, said Mandela.

“I am happy I’m in a position again to say thank you.”

Singh described Mandela as “the greatest Gandhian of them all” for transforming the lives of millions.

“I salute you on behalf of the people of India. We love you,” he told Mandela.

Visiting Constitution Hill earlier on Monday, Singh said Gandhi would have been “elated” to see his aspirations of peace and reconciliation realised in the transformation of South Africa under Mandela’s leadership.

In the eyes of the world, the mantle of Gandhi seemed to have “descended” on Mandela, Singh said.

Their meeting also coincided with the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha, or passive resistance, in which followers resist injustice in non-violent ways.

Another South African who had espoused “truly Gandhian values” was Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said Singh.

He announced that the Gandhi Peace Award would be made to Tutu in recognition of his contribution to social and political transformation.

The award consists of a certificate; a medallion carrying Gandhi’s profile and his words “Love ever suffers/never revenges itself”; their name on his statue; and the opportunity to present a message of challenge and hope at the awards ceremony.

The award was made to British human-rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith in 2005 and to United For Peace and Justice anti-war coalition co-chair Leslie Cagan in 2006.

Singh also lit a lamp on monday at the entrance to an exhibition at Constitution Hill chronicling Gandhi’s time in Johannesburg from 1902 to 1914.

The exhibition, ‘Gandhi, Prisoner of Conscience’, shows how Gandhi’s time in the notorious “native jail” impacted on his thinking.

Gandhi believed the physical suffering he endured would make him stronger and more determined in his moral cause. He was imprisoned in South Africa and India for a total of 2 338 days.

Welcoming Singh to Constitution Hill, Chief Justice Pius Langa said it was an honour to reflect on the contribution Gandhi had made to South African society, particularly on the site where he was imprisoned for his political beliefs.

South Africa was on a journey, a quest to achieve truth and gentleness, said Langa.

“We see the footprints of this humble son of India, this great freedom fighter of our own country and we know that we are on the right track,” Langa said. - Sapa



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