M.K Gandhi spent about 20 years in South Africa, predominantly in the Natal area. His experiences in South Africa are considered the formative years of his international passive resistance stance against discrimination, and many sites in Durban and surrounding areas are dedicated to his political and social influence.
The unofficial Gandhi Trail:
The tour under the banner 'Gandhi Trail', a brain child of the Consul General for India in Johannesburg Anju Ranjan, enlightened the participants about Gandhi’s early days in the country as he led resistance to the White Government’s, discriminatory laws.
The first stop is in Pietermaritzburg, where the young lawyer, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was unceremoniously thrown off a train coach. This was on a cold winter morning in 1893, only because it was reserved for WHITES ONLY! (This sparked his decision to stay in the country for a further two Decades to develop his Satyagraha principles; to oppose the government peacefully, before returning to India to do the same idea against British colonialism!
A Plaque commemorating the incident and a double-sided bust of Gandhi, was inaugurated there by the late Chief Minister of Delhi, Sushma Swaraj in 2018. (She Died on the 6th of August 2019).
The next stop is the Phoenix Settlement. This Commune was started by Gandhi in the North of Durban. They continue to run social development programs for the local community, led by his granddaughter Ela Gandhi! (She highlights the diverse activities of the Centre, which aims to make many people from the impoverished communities surrounding the Area self-sufficient.
Proceeding to Ladysmith, to the Lord Vishnu Temple. A Statue of Gandhi is in the forecourt of the Temple. Continuing on through terrible Roads, Dundee awaits where there is a Museum on Zulu Culture. The Courthouse where Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba, were tried and sentenced on a number of occasions for leading peaceful protest marches, is also in Dundee.
Next stop is Volksrust, the Jail Cell where Gandhi was imprisoned in, after he opted for nine months of imprisonment with hard labour rather than paying a fine, for leading a march against the Government, Now used as a training room for inmates!
Revisiting these places and reinventing the importance of Mahatma Gandhi's teachings in today's World, could lead us to a peaceful and more prosperous future?
Gandhi was posthumously granted Freedom of the City in Pietermaritzburg in April 1997. Mandela, who was president at the time and had himself received Freedom of the City earlier in the same day, started his speech by saying: “Today we are righting a Century-old wrong!”