External Affairs

Marching in South Africa’s Durban in Memory of Gandhi

Photos from the Salt March. Credit: Peter de Groot/ Facebook

In 2004, Ela Gandhi – Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter – decided to begin a new tradition in Durban, which would involve a 19 km walk from Gandhi’s original home at Phoenix Settlement and end at a Durban stadium. For Ela, it was important to carry on the legacy of her grandfather, whose philosophies of non-violence and peace still ring across the world. But the march not only commemorates Gandhi but also a South African who has contributed much to the nation – Inkosi Albert Luthuli, a leader, an anti-apartheid activist and a teacher who believed in the principles of non-violence and peace, and went on to become the first Nobel Peace Prize winner from Africa. It was only fitting that the march be named after the two great figures who held similar beliefs and promoted a culture of non-violence and ubuntu, and thats how the Gandhi-Luthuli Salt March began.

The South African leader Albert John Luthuli. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

On March 23, over 1000 people took part in the 13th annual march, which is presented by the Gandhi Development Trust (headed by Ela) in partnership with the eThekwini Municipality and the KwaZulu-Natal government.

South Africa features largely in any biography of the Indian leader. Gandhi spent his formative years in the country, having arrived there as a newly qualified lawyer. His time in South Africa, during which he led the life of a struggling lawyer and also experienced the racism that opened his eyes, led to the development of his famous strategy of satyagraha. This later played a pivotal role in his brand of leadership of the Indian freedom struggle.

According to Satish Dhupelia, Gandhi’s great grandson, the route of the walk was changed in 2016 to make it safer and shorter so that more people could participate, especially those who were daunted by the prospect of an almost 19 km walk. The walk is non-competitive and well attended, with many dignitaries and guests from other countries taking part. This year, participants included diplomats and government representatives.

The walk also attracts a large number of Gandhi lookalikes, who don dhotis and carry sticks. Most are men over 70 years of age but continue to attend the walk every year.