Address by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, at the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Day of Indians in the Diaspora and the Centenary Celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India, 08 January 2015, Mahatma Mandir, Gandhinagar, Gujarat State, India

Your Excellency, Prime Minister Modi,
Your Excellency, President Ramotar of Guyana, Your Excellency, Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius, Honourable Chief Minister of Gujarat, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me take this opportunity, from the outset, to thank the Government of India for honouring us with an invitation. We are humbled by this gesture of friendship and we join you here today to celebrate an important highlight of relations between our two countries the Centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa to India.

This landmark occasion of Gandhi's return to India coincides with another great historic milestone. In South Africa, today -- 08 January -- is the exact day on which the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela, was founded in 1912. This year, we celebrate 103 years of the existence of the African National Congress, the oldest liberation movement on the African continent.

Gandhi’s relationship with the liberation movement in South Africa goes back to the early years of the previous century when he and the Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, who was to become the first President of the African National Congress, developed a friendship based shared values and common interests.

Gandhi’s philosophy and the example of resistance against oppression contributed to the intellectual and spiritual basis for the struggle against colonialism and apartheid. Indeed, Gandhi’s own efforts in this regard helped feed the emerging consciousness at the time, which Reverend Dube would later refer to as the “Awakening of Africa”.

The lives of Gandhi and Dube had many parallels, which characterise his contribution to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Both men were passionately involved in their communities. Gandhi founded the National Indian Congress in 1894 and Dube found the Natal Native Congress in 1900, and both founded weekly publications.

Both provided exemplary leadership, examples of courage, perseverance and sacrifice, which we can still draw on as we face our modern challenges and struggles. It was during this time that Gandhi, through his resistance to racial discrimination, would develop the concepts and philosophy of Satyagraha and Ahimsa.

These concepts that Gandhi developed in South Africa formed the spiritual and intellectual bedrock of his approach of passive resistance, which differed considerably with how this concept was understood in Western philosophy. In his own words, Gandhi said:

“Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase ‘passive resistance’, in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word ‘satyagraha’ itself”.
The power of these concepts would not just lead to India’s independence in 1948, but would profoundly influence Dr Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The non-violent approach of Dr King’s activism was directly based on his understanding of Gandhi’s experiences in South Africa and India.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The historical connection between the people of South Africa and the people of India – and hence the special relationship between our two countries – is best captured in the words of our icon, Nelson Mandela, when he said:

“As much as India is a particle of our country, so are we too a particle of India. History has condemned us to seek each other out, to deal with each other as members of the same family. It is that history which makes it possible for each one of us to claim the immortal Mahatma Gandhi as our national hero.”

The bond between South Africa and India is one that is forged by our respective peoples. South Africa is home to the largest community of Indians outside of India. According to the latest census figures, South Africa’s Indian population numbers approximately 1,3 million or about  2, 7 percent of South Africa’s population.

We must continue to use the bonds that bind our two countries and peoples to pursue a progressive agenda in our respective countries and in the global arena. A lot remains to be done, in both South Africa and India, to address the treble challenges of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment.

In South Africa, we are implementing a National Development Plan (Vision 2030) to address these treble challenges, and we are working on forging partnerships with countries such as India to share knowledge and skills so as to improve the quality of the lives of our peoples.

Amongst other priorities, South Africa's National Development Plan aims to guide our efforts in improving our healthcare, beneficiating our mineral output, investing in renewable energy, training and skilling our population and creating decent work for our people. We are certain that the Indian Government and business sector will partner with us as we implement our National Development Plan. Together, we can explore opportunities for mutual benefit.

There are many areas where we would like to see better cooperation between our two countries, particularly in the fields of Information and Communications Technology, healthcare, renewable energy. Our two countries have a lot to learn from one another. Amongst our own people, we can find innovative solutions to our common challenges.

At the moment, total bilateral trade between South Africa and India stands at US$ 15bn. Our leaders have set a target of US$ 18bn by the year 2018.  It is our hope that we will be able to use our historic and cordial relations to tackle our common challenges and realise our shared aspirations.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Our two countries have worked together to build formations and platforms such as IBSA and BRICS, which can use effectively to agitate for urgent reform of global institutions and power relations, with the ultimate goal being a more equitable and just world in which countries of the south take their rightful place in world affairs.

As we mark the 70th anniversary of the UN this year, 2015, we must intensify the push for urgent reforms of global institutions of governance like the UN Security Council and the international financial institutions.

We are looking forward to the contribution that India can make in shaping a new international financial architecture, as India will be appointing the first President of the BRICS New Development Bank. This will provide us with another concrete tool to pursue our development objectives.

The importance of pursuing our development agenda in a multi-dimensional way was emphasised by His Excellency President Zuma at the BRICS Leaders’ meeting on the margins of the G20 Summit in Australia, where he said: “A multi-dimensional approach [is required] to address the dimensions of peace, security and development that are inter-related and inter-dependent. Any deficit in one dimension will have a direct impact on the other”.

Reforms of global institutions of governance, the World Trade Organisation regime and how we approach the resolutions of conflicts are all inter-related and integral to realising the change that we want to bring about.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

South Africa is also particularly blessed to be part of a rapidly growing Continent offering tremendous opportunities for investments and partnerships. Africa is a continent on the rise; and we count India as a dependable partner of Africa as we look forward to more engagement with your country in pursuit of the aspirations of the African people: peace, security and development.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we celebrate the centenary of Gandhi’s return to India and pay homage to his values, we honour him as a powerful symbol of the ties that bind Africa and India. 

Let us again draw strength from the people that make up the bonds between us and let us deliver on the promise of the legacy that we have come to celebrate today and draw strength from the words of the great man himself:  “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won; challenges such as poverty, unemployment and inequality can, like tyranny, seem invincible, but in the end they always fall.”

I thank you


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