MANDELA’S LEGACY IN LENASIA
Our late President, Nelson Mandela, had an intimate relationship with the people of Lenasia.
And the people of Lenasia loved Mandela.
That friendship can be traced back to the 1950s. Mandela struck up friendships with activists and leaders from the Transvaal Indian Congress, who lived in Fordsburg, Evaton, Marabastad and central Johannesburg.
But the close bond and thread was broken in the 1960s. As leader of the African National Congress and its armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, Mandela was arrested and imprisoned for life on Robben Island.
Leaders from the Transvaal Indian Congress, like Dr Yusuf Dadoo, were banned, imprisoned and sent into exile.
The hated Group Areas Act disrupted community life and forcibly moved people to a barren place named Lenasia.
The bonds of friendship and comradeship were being broken by the brutal apartheid system.
ROBBEN ISLAND PRISON - BONDS REKINDLED
Bonds forged in the liberation struggle can never be broken.
Imprisoned for life on an island 11 kilometres from Cape Town, Mandela served his sentence with Walter Sisulu, fellow comrades and political prisoners from Lenasia and elsewhere.
Among his closest comrades were Ahmed Kathrada, Laloo ‘Isu’ Chiba, Reggie Vandeyar, Shirish Nanabhai and Indres Naidoo.
Prison life was hard and tough. Mandela was discriminated against even in jail. He was given less sugar than Kathrada and Chiba and no bread.
He had to wear short trousers. And they were forced into hard labour breaking stones.
The hardships and deprivations of prison life never broke them. It only strengthened their friendship and love for another.
When Mandela gallantly walked out of prison on 11 February 1990, he never forgot his fellow comrades and the people of Lenasia.
MANDELA’S HISTORIC VISIT TO LENZ
One of the first public meetings addressed by Mandela after his release from prison was in Lenasia.
Held at the Lenasia Cricket Stadium on 18 November 1990, Mandela called upon its residents to intensify the struggle for freedom and to bring an end to hated apartheid system.
In his speech Mandela said: “… I am proud that from the inhumanity of apartheid has emerged communities with beautiful homes and gardens, and colourful churches, temples and mosques. It shows that the spirit of our people had not been broken by the cruelty of apartheid.
“It shows that you have developed an iron-like determination to destroy apartheid and to create a new society. There are many examples of your courage and strength.
“In prison we were proud to read about the massive rejection of the Tri-cameral system by this community in August 1984. Only last year a young girl of twelve from Lenasia was arrested in Pretoria during the women’s march against repression. And there were the tragic deaths of Yusuf Akhalwaya and Prakash Napier, soldiers of our people’s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe.” Mandela went on to say: “Our organisation (the ANC) is open to all people. We have the proud record of having in our ranks Africans, Indians, Coloureds, Whites … Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and even atheists. And we are proud of this diversity. With all its imperfections and problems, the ANC is the living embodiment of a new South Africa.”
Mandela’s Love for Education
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
- Nelson Mandela, 2003
Mandela had placed a high value on education and learning. He wanted young people to study and develop their minds and their potential.
For him education was the key to the future.
Even though Mandela had a hectic schedule meeting world leaders he never forgot simple things like visiting schools in local communities.
In Lenasia, Mandela visited Greyville and Model Primary Schools and the M H Joosub Technical Secondary School.
Mandela spent a great amount of time interacting with children and youth. At his final speech as president to the South African parliament in March 1999, he said, “I am the product of Africa and her long-cherished view of rebirth that can now be realised so that all of her children may play in the sun.”
MANDELA IN ACTION
Mandela’s political leadership and activism was always felt in Lenasia.
He officially opened the Gandhi Hall on 27 September 1992. He addressed the business and religious sectors and campaigned for the ANC’s victory in the 1999 general elections.
In honouring Gandhi, Mandela declared:
“Gandhi served his apprenticeship in South Africa for 21 years, and then as the Mahatma, liberated through mass action India from her imperialist bondage. Gandhiji was a South African and his memory deserves to be cherished now and in the post-apartheid era.
“The Gandhian philosophy of peace, tolerance and non-violence began in South Africa as a powerful instrument of social change. In the 20th century this weapon was effectively used by India to liberate her people. Martin Luther King, Jr. used it to combat racism in the United States.”
And his message to the business community still has relevance today:
“Business has as much an obligation as we have to ensure that a democratic political system is instituted without delay, but they also have a social responsibility to abandon old ways of thinking and embrace the ideals of democracy, justice and equality, particularly in the sphere of the economy, so that our people enjoy a decent standard of living.”
Mandela had a magnetic personality. He drew people towards him and charmed them with his wisdom, charisma and great sense of humour.
Whenever he visited Lenasia, people flocked to see him and shake his hands.
Over the years he had met with local religious, community and business leaders, as well as activists. And they loved every moment spent with him.
Two of Lenasia’s sons, Gash Rangasamy and Lingaraj Moonsamy, had the privilege of being part of Mandela’s security team.
Mandela’s death had a profound effect on the Lenasia community as it did throughout the country and globally.
Lenasia mourned the death of its leader with a moving memorial service held at the Gandhi Hall.
And when he was in hospital activists from Lenz gathered outside wishing him a speedy recovery.
In a very personal and emotional note his lifelong friend, Ahmed Kathrada, recalled:
“It both grieves me and inspires me to write this to you now, with the hour of your death still a fresh wound in our peoples’ hearts. You light-heartedly called me Madala, and I reciprocated - it became our standard form of address. To me it signified mutual trust, respect and close comradeship.
“Your abundant reserves of love, simplicity, honesty, service, humility, care, courage, foresight, patience and tolerance continually serves as a source of enormous strength to me and so many millions of people around the world.
“Most importantly, you symbolised collective leadership, reconciliation, unity, forgiveness and nation-building. You ardently believed in a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.”
For Mandela, freedom of the press and freedom of expression were essential elements of a democratic society.
He defended the right of the media to report on matters of public interest freely and without hindrance, even if they were critical of him.
He fought against any form of media censorship.
Mandela always made time for local and community media groups believing that they communicate most directly with the people on the ground.
In recognition of Mandela’s lifelong contribution to the freedom struggle, editor of The Lenasia Indicator, Ameen Akhalwaya, awarded him the Newsmaker of the Year Award.
In 1994, he said, "A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens."
LIVE THE MANDELA DREAM
Mandela’s legacy lives on; in Lenasia and elsewhere.
Increasingly, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation are working together to promote the political legacy of these giants of our liberation struggle.
We work together to fight racism and to promote the ideals of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.
We work together to ensure that our leaders in political organisations and in civil society act with integrity and transparently.
We must work together to build the South Africa and the world for which Mandela sacrificed his life.
We must live the Mandela dream, every day of our lives!
The Durban Book Launch
The Johannesburg Book Launch
The Cape Town Book Launch.
The Lenasia Book Launch