PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Durban City Hall: 26 January 2019
Acting Consul General Mr Pradeep Gupta and Mrs Rita Gupta; esteemed guests and friends.
Prime Minister Nehru once described India as “the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new”. This remains a fitting description of the most populous democracy in the world.
It is my pleasure, as always, to share this celebration with the diplomatic representatives of India, and the Indian community in South Africa. We celebrate the Republic Day of India as friends of India, knowing that our people are joined by a bond unlike any throughout the world.
While there are millions of Indians living, working and raising their families in countries across the globe, South Africa – and particularly KwaZulu Natal – is privileged to host the largest Indian population outside of India.
The relationship between this Province and the Indian people is part of the history of South Africa.
We are all familiar with the arrival of Indians on this soil as indentured labourers. We are well aware of the enormous contribution Indian businessmen have made to our economy. We appreciate the flavour that Indian culture has imbued. We remember the role played by Indian men and women in our liberation struggle. We have learnt from the courage of India’s heroes. We have worked and lived side by side for generations.
Our bond is born out of adversity, and a shared overcoming of adversity. And it has been strengthened by the tremendous contribution of South Africans of Indian extraction to the building of our democracy.
Indians have made their indelible and indispensable mark in the spheres of politics, economics, business, industry, the arts, medicine, education and social discourse. So a celebration of India, is truly our own our celebration.
This evening we remember the moment on 26 January 1950 when hundreds of years of hope and striving culminated in the birth of the Constitution of the Republic of India.
Drafted over almost three years, India’s Constitution was met with international respect and enthusiasm. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the time said this, “The Indian venture is not a pale imitation of our practice at home, but a magnified and multiplied reproduction on a scale we have never dreamt of.”
I remember how, in 1950, we who were still engaged in the liberation struggle in South Africa celebrated India’s achievement. It encouraged us in what we hoped to achieve for our own country. It told us that the world was moving, however slowly, towards justice and democracy.
Today, as a nation that understands the value of a principled Constitution, South Africa shares this great celebration. We know that our Constitution remains the foundation of our strength.
I personally have been inspired by India’s commitment to democracy and freedom. I admired how the Drafting Committee of India’s Constitution was so conscious of creating flexibility within the Indian federation. I have shared that aspiration for South Africa.
I still consider it one of the great privileges of my life to know the son of the Mahatma, Mr Manilal Gandhi and his wife. I met him during the Defiance Campaign in Durban when he was released from jail after serving his sentence. Later I met the granddaughter of the Mahatma, Ela Gandhi and her then husband Mr Mewa Ramgobin.
The Mahatma Gandhi remains an icon whom we remember when we celebrate events like this. Not only did his presence quell the violence that marred India’s transition to independence, but his philosophy inspired the ideals of non-violence and passive resistance which guided the founding fathers of Africa's oldest liberation movement.
Although I have had the privilege of sharing this celebration many times with the representatives of the Government of India, and with my many friends in the Indian community, it still touches me deeply to think of the journey our two countries have made.
And that journey continues. Here in South Africa we are preparing to hold our sixth national democratic elections. Within little more than 100 days South Africans will exercise that fundamental right bestowed by democracy. This weekend is in fact our last Voter Registration Weekend. So I encourage everyone here who is eligible to vote to visit a voting station tomorrow. Make sure you are registered, so that we can continue building this shared home, together.
I thank you.