History

Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Memorial Committee

The Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Memorial Committee was formed in 1989 on the initiative of the Late Mr Dasarath Bundhoo to prepare for the commemoration of the centenary of the 7th June 1893 incident when the young lawyer Mohandas K. Gandhi was thrown off the train at Pietermaritzburg Railway Station. This event started his “active non-violence”.

The inaugural meeting which was held on Monday, 2nd October 1989 at the John Pringle Hall – Natal Museum was presided over by Dr B.R. Stuckenberg, the Director of the Museum.  Present at the meeting were representatives of various organisations from Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas.

The following persons were elected to constitute the committee: Dr MM Motala – Chairman, Vice-Chairpersons – Dr B R Stuckenberg, Dr S Gqubule, Mr A N Lazarus, Mr M Ramgobin and Clr R Haswell, Mr Dasarath Bundhoo and Aroo Naidoo – Joint Secretaries and Mr Kay Makan – Treasurer. Members of the Executive Council – Prof F Meer, Mr CT Bhoola, Mr AS Chetty, Mr Y Lalloo, Mr SB Maharaj, Mr H Soni, Mr HS Jadoo, Mr P Paparam, Mr S Bridglall, Mr R Ballim, Mr. R Thakurdin and Mr L Sampson. Members of the General Committee – Mr YD Asmall, Mr. K Mkhize, Mr N Mudaly, Mr SV Moodley, Mr R Kara, Dr DV Chetty, Mr A Mia, Mr Y Carrim, Mr Y Bhamjee,      Mr MK Jerrier, Mr CD Moodley, Mr N Middelton, Mrs V Satgar, Mrs B Ghela, Mrs S Dookrun, Mrs L Ascorn, Miss l Ferguson, Mrs D Bundhoo, Rev GM Ndaba, Rev GM Nsimbi, Mr S Satgar, Mr J Makhatini, Mrs S Chetty, Mr IB Sangham and Mr ME Naidoo.

After several meetings the PGMC resolved to erect a bronze statue as a perpetual record of the  incident that occurred on 7th June 1893, an event which Gandhi himself said had a major impact on the development of satyagraha, a tool that he used to mobilise against injustice and oppression both here in South Africa, and in India when he returned in 1915.

The PGMC raised the funds for the statue through the generosity of the local community, and a sculptor from Port Elizabeth, Phil Kolbe was commissioned to do the work. The statue was unveiled on 6th June 1993 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the presence of Nelson Mandela, Dr Karan Singh, representing the Government of India, Pat Cornell the Mayor of Pietermaritzburg, and various other dignitaries, in the city centre, opposite the Colonial Building, the seat of the government of Natal, in close proximity to the Pietermaritzburg City Hall.

Once the statue project was completed, the PGMC reconstituted itself adopting the following aims and objectives:

  • To promote the values and ideology of Mahatma Gandhi, in particular, truth, peace and non-violence.
  • To take the message of peace, goodwill and hope to young people in schools, youth committees and higher education institutions.
  • To organize regular commemorative events to mark the historical events and dates in Gandhi’s life.
  • To facilitate the preservation of the historical Gandhi sites in the city.

The current executive committee that was elected at the last General Meeting is as follows: Chairperson: David Gengan; Deputy Chairpersons: Irshad Motala and Bunny Bhoola; Secretary: Nishi Bundhoo; Treasurer: Madan Ghela; Assistant Secretary: Nishwan Bundhoo; Members: Umang John, Maryann Naidoo, Pranisha Parag, Rishi Seegobin, Shatha Maharaj-Singh, Sandy Naidoo, Prakash Satyapal, Kevin Beekrum, Kay Makan (Honorary President) and  Rugbhir Harkhu and Himathlal Soni (Honorary Vice Presidents).

The PGMC currently hosts the following events annually: the 7th June commemoration event, the Gandhi Memorial Lecture and the Gandhi Peace Walk on the Sunday immediately following the 2nd October, the birth anniversary of the Mahatma. Apart from the Gandhi statue in the city centre, the PGMC has also established the Gandhi Corner at the municipal library which houses the complete works of Gandhi , and constructed a plinth on the station platform to mark the spot where he was thrown off the train.

In 2016, the committee realised a long standing dream when a permanent Gandhi Exhibition was opened in the waiting room at the railway station. This was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency Narendra Modi, during his visit to the city. A digital museum was then added in 2018, during the 125th anniversary of the 1893 train incident, which coincided with the 150th anniversary celebration of Gandhi’s birth.

A double sided bust of Gandhi was installed in the foyer of the station – the young lawyer who was evicted from the train here, on the one side, and the Mahatma on the other. This was unveiled by the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Shri Sushma Swaraj. The PGMC is indebted to the Indian Government for providing the funds for the establishment of the exhibition, and to the railway authority, PRASA, for making available the waiting room at the station.

The PGMC is indebted to the late Dr Chota Motala and Dasrath Bundhoo, our founding fathers, and the many other members  who gave up their time and resources to start the work of the committee, which continues unabated today. We pay tribute also to the late Aroo Naidoo, a founding member of the committee, who served as the Secretary, and the immediate past Chairperson and Honorary President, for the sterling work he did over the 31 years of the existence of the committee.