Appiah Saravanan (AS) Chetty

Posted by Jeeva Rajgopaul on

Biographical information

Synopsis:

Trade unionist, social worker, political prisoner, banned person, member of the Natal Indian Congress, United Democratic Front and the African National Congress, Deputy Mayor of Msundusi Municipality

First name: 
Appiah
Middle name: 
Saravanan (AS)
Last name: 
Chetty
Date of birth: 
3 April 1929
Location of birth: 
Pietermaritzburg, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal)
Date of death: 
2 September 2000
Location of death: 
Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal

Appiah Saravanan (A.S.) Chetty was born in Pietermaritzburg, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) on 3 April 1929. He was the second of five children of Appiah and Vellimah Chetty, whose parents had been brought to Natal as indentured labourers. He attended Woodlands High where he was labelled an ‘agitator’ by the principal.

Chetty joined the Natal Mercury as an office hand, and then Eddels Shoe Factory, where he was elected as shop steward. He was dismissed because of his trade union work. He subsequently joined a cigarette wholesaler where he formed the Trade Union of Allied Workers with Moses Mabhida, and was again dismissed.

He was involved in the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) at first, and later in the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the African National Congress (ANC).

By the end of 1950, he had joined the Pietermaritzburg Branch of the NIC. He was on the executive of the Branch and was the Pietermaritzburg NIC's Joint Secretary with EM Haffajee.

Chetty was actively involved in campaigning and mobilising for the Congress of the People, which he attended at Kliptown, Johannesburg, where the ANC’s Freedom Charter was adopted.

In 1973 he was banned for a period of five years, again in 1981 for a period of two years and a third in 1988 for a further twenty months. He also endured several periods of detention and imprisonment.

He was arrested under the State of Emergency in 1960, and imprisoned at the Burger Street Jail, Pietermaritzburg for 98 days. He was again detained at Burger Street Jail for a month in 1980. From the prison in Pietermaritzburg he was transferred to Modder Bee Prison in Benoni, East Rand, Transvaal (now Gauteng).

On 12 June 1986 he was detained at New Prison, Pietermaritzburg, and remanded in custody for over three months.

He had various jobs before working for the Child Welfare Society. He worked against the 'Platoon School' system, and was involved with the Combined Ratepayers Association.

 In 1983 he was elected Chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg Branch of the United Democratic Front, and, in this capacity, participated in the activities of the Mass Democratic Movement during the 1980s.

In 1990 he participated in initiating the establishment of the ANC interim body for Coloured and Indian areas and the informal settlements in the northern part of Pietermaritzburg. In 1991 he was elected Chairperson of the ANC’s Northern Areas Branch which emerged as the Northdale Branch and which he continued to chair until his death.

He was an active campaigner in the first democratic elections and in the local government elections of 1997. In 1997 he became a councillor in the Pietermaritzburg Msunduzi Transitional Local Council, and from 1998 until his death he was Deputy Mayor of Pietermaritzburg.

Appiah Saravanan (A.S.) Chetty died in Pietermaritzburg on 2 September 2000. He married Sarasvathie Padayachee from Newcastle on 27 January 1957. They had three children, a son and two daughters.


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Last updated : 22-May-2019

This article was produced by South African History Online on 22-May-2019

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