Charm Govender

Struggle veteran Charm Govender is laid to rest

The life of Charm Govender was celebrated today as his funeral was held in Kharwastan Civic Hall, Chatsworth.

Pathasarvasvaran Samotharan Govender (Charm)
09/04/61 – 22/03/21

Charm Govender Madiba

Charm was born in Durban, the eldest son of Dhanam and Dory Govender. He schooled at the Welbedacht Primary School and Crestview Primary School as well as at the Risecliffe Secondary School in Chatsworth where he completed STd 9 (Grade 11). He completed his A levels in the UK where he was exposed to the work and members of the African National Congress and the SACP. He returned to South Africa in 1978 and thereafter registered at the University of Durban-Westville (now UKZN).

He became active in student, community, political and grassroots struggles in Chatsworth, as well as the Greater Durban and KZN area. At the Chatsworth level he worked with highly respected NIC leaders such as Roy Padayachie, George Sewpershad, Yunus Mahomed, Goolam Aboobaker, Darby Sookhoo, Joe Hoover, Mots Motala and a host of others. The Natal Indian Congress leadership worked closely with organizations such as the CHAC and its affiliates, taking up bread and butter issues ranging from high rents, high water charges, the right to property ownership of council-owned homes, poor service delivery and high transport costs.

Charm was deeply involved in all of these struggles – walking the streets of Chatsworth, organizing communities under the banner of CHAC and its affiliates and working together with activists such as Shoots Naidoo, Patsy Pillay, Gino Govender, Des Moodley,B rian Chinsamy, Uncle Thambiran, Devan Pillay, Alec Naidoo, Spongy Moodley, Kevin and many others.

Charm also worked with scholars who had been expelled from school during the school boycotts and, together with others including Maggie Govender and Shoots Naidoo, conducted additional classes so that people like Kumi Naidoo, Kovin Naidoo, Sagaren ‘BA’ Naidoo were assisted to pass their matric examinations despite being expelled from school.

He served in the underground structures of the ANC and the SACP. He left the country to meet with the ANC leadership in exile on several occasions. He also served as part of Operation Vula which was led by Cde O.R Tambo. Here he served with comrades such as Ronnie Kasrils, Mac Maharaj, Simphiwe Nyanda and others. Post the 1994 elections Charm was the recipient of a medal for service to the country that was awarded to him by President Nelson Mandela.

Charm was arrested and detained under the State of Emergency in 1986. He was shot at and sustained a fractured knee while attempting to escape arrest by the security police.

He was sheltered by staff members of the Witteklip High School but was betrayed by another staff member who revealed his whereabouts to the police. He was brutally beaten up while in detention and sustained injuries that left him in pain throughout his life. Needless to say, being Charm, he never complained.

Charm was a brilliant, analytical thinker and many activists and ANC structures benefited from this as he took pleasure in developing and nurturing critical thinking and analysis. The stalwart was an avid reader and shared his readings and insights widely. Many have benefitted fro this.

He initially worked at the Chatsworth Early Learning Centre, a pioneering ECD structure that pioneered the concept of the Playbus and home-based playgroups for young children. As usual he gave it his all.


He then moved on to work at the Labour and Economic Project later to become the Centre for Community andLabour Studies (CCLS) where he worked together with Jits Patel, Billy Nair, Pravin Gordhan, Mdu Zungu, Karen Pearce, Trevor Mark, Kisa Dlamini, Vish Sewpershad and Nomsa Dube, among a host of other individuals.

CCLS provided vital training for community and labour activists throughout KZN. It’s role is widely recognized as laying the foundations for progressive thinking and practice in community and labour organizing. Countless organizations will bear testimony to this, among them organizations that pioneered election training, in a hostile environment, prior to the 1994 general elections.

Post the 1994 elections Charm commenced work in the South African Revenue Service and was part of the cohort that shaped SARS into a dynamic effective revenue collecting agency. He was still working at SARS at the time of his death.
As part of his commitment to building a peaceful, non-racial South Africa after the 1994 elections, Charm Govender was involved in a number of civic organizations such as the Gandhi Development Trust, Satyagraha newspaper, Monty Naicker Commemoration Committee and the Kharwastan Civic Association – organizations based on the values of peace, non-racialism, unity and service to the people.

Charm lived his life according to unflinching principles and values. Everything he did was shaped by these values. He served selflessly and sincerely – something that is not easy to come by. He truly believed in the power of the collective and in the principles of Ubuntu. In his service to people and country he was never tempted to enrich himself through corrupt practice, despite the ample offers and opportunities that were offered by the more unscrupulous.

His is a life cut short too soon. He is survived by his mother, siblings , wife, children and in laws and a host of grieving friends, comrades and activists. To paraphrase a local activist who worked with Charm, Comrade Charm Govender


“A Revolution is not a beauty parade. A Revolution is about radical action for progressive change.”

We doff our hats in salute of this revolutionary and ground activist of the mass democratic movement, Cde Charm Govender.
It is still difficult to accept and to come to terms that this luminary of our revolution and distinguished cadre of our beloved movement is no more.

While always quite, dignified, and polite, Cde Charm distinguished himself and made a mark for himself through his gift of an intelligent and razor-sharp mind. In him, we had a matured cadre who always approached matters from the objective factors on the ground and the realistic conditions at play. Cde Charm was always in touch with the masses and communities. He was never aloof or elitist, hence his analysis always sought to respond to concrete, present day challenges.

In him, we witnessed a humble and unassuming leader who demonstrated that in the ongoing revolutionary struggle to expand the frontiers of freedom and human dignity, our contribution and success should never be measured by how often we were on podiums and other public speaking fora. Grounded in revolutionary theory and the discipline of MK, he could never be swayed to play to the gallery.

He could not reduce his revolutionary purpose to a popularity contest.
He is a comrade who grasped that what mattered is not how often one spoke, but what progressive ideas one communicated sincerely, and how realistic one was in what was stated.

We are aware that in the past, and especially in the present, we have those in our ranks who speak or attempt to speak on every topic under the sun, and certainly Cde Charm was not one of those. Today, we daily encounter those who articulate progressive views but fail to examine whether prevailing conditions would permit progression of such views. For Cde Charm, progressive views had to be based on their potential to succeed and transform the living conditions of our people.

In Cde Charm, we have lost a unifier and a non-racialist who fully embraced the vision of the Freedom Charter that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. Since his days as a youth activist, he fought and contributed to the ideal of a South Africa which is united, non-racial, non-sexist, just, and prosperous. His sudden and heart wrenching demise must serve as a reminder that the National Democratic Revolution to which he dedicated his life compels and demands of us never to rest on our laurels as long as our nation continue to be divided on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender.

In his honour, we must pick up his spear and continue the struggle of transcending any racial barriers and embrace living together in harmony, peace, and justice as the new normal of the South Africa of our dreams. Cde Charm embraced this revolutionary principle as his own way of living, and saw neither African nor Indian, neither blacks nor whites, but humankind who should enjoy equal rights and same opportunities and freedoms. While we come from a history where skin tone, the shape of our noses, and the texture of our hair determined our station in life, the future that Cde Charm and his generation dedicated their lives to can best be described by Steve Biko, where he said, and I quote:

“We have set out on a quest for true humanity, and somewhere on the distant horizon we can see the glittering prize. Let us march forth with courage and determination, drawing strength from our common plight and our brotherhood. In time we shall be in a position to bestow upon South Africa the greatest gift possible – a more human face”.

We bid farewell to a quiet giant of our noble struggle for justice who cut his teeth in student and youth politics and progressed to become an underground operative of Umkhonto WeSizwe and a ground activist of the United Democratic Front under the banner of the Natal Indian Congress. He worked with senior leaders who trusted him with key responsibilities including intelligence work. With all his honour, credentials, and success, he remained humble and was never emboldened to abuse his status. We pay tribute to him for never demanding special deployment or positions. Throughout his life, he was exemplary and remained steadfast in providing direction and support to those in leadership.

We will always carry Cde Charm’s light in our hearts and be inspired that in him, South Africans were blessed with a dedicated grassroots leader who fully identified himself with community struggles. This was in line with his understanding that the revolution is about service and improving the lives of the people. His life was intertwined with the lives of his community and the marginalized of our land. Thus, his determination was to find lasting solutions to daily people’s challenges.

If we take a leaf out of his extraordinary life, we learn that while the overall transformation program remains crucial, we should nevertheless equally understand the importance of day-to-day local struggles which entail, among others, the eradication of poverty, fighting crime and GBV, eliminating drug and substance abuse, and promoting education for children so that they can unleash their potential.

We pledge our earnest condolences to Cde Maggie and sons. We know you have lost a husband, a father, a friend, and loyal comrade. May you find solace in the treasure of fond memories from the life you have shared together.

Good night our dear Cde Charm Govender. Thank you for serving our people and country selflessly and with integrity. We will solely miss you.

Hamba Kahle Mkhonto!

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