South African struggle hero and President of the former NIC Mewa Ramgobin, has died in Cape Town at the age eighty-three.
Ramgobin, was instrumental in honouring Gandhi’s legacy in South Africa. He suffered a stroke and was hospitalised nine days ago. He succumbed to his illness last night in Cape Town.
Mewa Ramgobin was at the forefront of the revival of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) originally founded by Mohandas Gandhi in 1894 to unite Indians against increasingly anti-Indian legislation.
Mewa Ramgobin, married to Gandhi’s granddaughter, Ela, has done a substantial amount of work to honour Mohandas Gandhi, including establishing the Ghandi museum and library, organising the Annual Gandhi Lecture and educating people from different race groups on Gandhian thought.
He also became the chairperson of the Trust that oversaw Gandhi’s Phoenix Settlement where Gandhi had carried out his social experiments of truth and non-violence.
Born in Inanda, Natal, on 10 November 1932, Ramgobin became aware of the political and social situation in South Africa as a child. He found it difficult to ignore the difference in treatment between himself as an Indian pupil and that of his African friends.
During the 1950s as a student at the University of Natal he was a member of the NIC, the ANC, President of Natal Universities SRC’s black section, and a National Executive Member of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS).
Mewa Ramgobin was banned for the first time in 1965 while holding the position of the organising secretary for the Gandhi Centenary Celebrations.
After his banning order expired in 1970, he established the Committee for Clemency which called for the release of political prisioners and the unbanning of the ANC.
In 1971 he turned his attention to the NIC. It was hoped that by reviving one wing of the Congress Alliance, the NIC, the Congress Alliance would be revived, too, and through this, the Freedom Charter.
However, before the offical convention to launch the revival of the NIC, Ramgobin was rebanned for five years and placed under house arrest which remained in place until July 1, 1983.
In August 1983, he became the first National Co-treasurer of the UDF and was detained 19 days later.
”In September 1984, I entered the British Consulate in Durban with other activists to protest against re-arrest orders that had been issued against us following protests to the first Tricameral Parliamentary elections.
”Our aim was to express solidarity with other detainees and highlight the harsh security laws of South Africa.”1
Ramgobin and fellow activists were immediately re-arrested on leaving the British Consulate and held under Section 28 of the revised order. They were held for six months without trial. When the case came to trial, they were acquitted.
He was among those elected to the ANC dominated democratic parliament in the 1994 elections, and remains an ANC-MP.
Ramgobin is author of the book, From waiting to live.