Call for peace at Gandhi Jayanti commemoration in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG: Mahatma Gandhi’s 147th birthday commemoration was marked on Sunday at South Africa’s highest judicial institution which is built on what was once a prison where he was jailed for opposing discriminator government policies in the country.

“It’s very important for us to remember Gandhi, and it’s more important in South Africa, where it is more appropriate for us to be standing right here, because this is where our country’s struggle for democracy saw fruition in the development of the Constitution that is unparalleled anywhere in the world,” said Kirti Menon, a granddaughter of Gandhi at a function held at the Constitution Hill.

Constitution Hill is built on a prison where Gandhi was jailed for opposing discriminator government policies in the country.

“It is also the place where Gandhi the lawyer became Gandhi the prisoner; and in becoming the prisoner he found four very important messages for us – truth; passive resistance and how to apply that to address social injustices in our society; non-violence and peace,” Menon added.

“Just by seeing the (local) Sunday newspapers today, you will see that all four of those are more or less absent from our lives, so the journey and the quest still continues,” Menon added.

Menon was referring to headlines about corruption and criminal activities in South African government and public institutions, as well as nationwide student protests that included burning down libraries and confrontation with police.

Menon called for all present to apply the four principles to fight the social ills in society.

“I trust that Gandhi’s message permeates into our lives in a responsible way, not just on October 2, but that on every day we take a lesson from that and apply it. The event took place beside a bust of Gandhi that was unveiled by then President Pratibha Patil a few years ago,” Mennon said.

Next to the bust is a special exhibition on Gandhi and South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela that was opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited the country in July this year.

“When Mahatma Gandhi stayed behind these prison walls, he wasn’t a Mahatma yet. He was a lawyer whose conscience had spoken out to lead those in this country and he was destined to lead the people in his country (India) to freedom,” said High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam, who hosted the event.

“So this is an important place in the history of both our countries,” Ghanashyam said.

A number of other celebrations of Gandhi’s birthday also took place across South Africa.

One of them was at Tolstoy Farm, the commune that Gandhi started outside Johannesburg during his tenure of 21 years in South Africa, where  the Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance Organisation hosted a Peace Prayer.