Ela Gandhi recalls the hero she called ‘Black Pimpernel’

2013-12-07 00:00

ELA Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, said Nelson Mandela was “instrumental” in ending the violence in KwaZulu-Natal through non-violent means.

“He told the people to throw away their sticks, put down their weapons and reconcile. His legacy of peaceful negotiation must be remembered,” said Gandhi, a Durban-based human rights activist.

She said Mandela had a “deep relationship” with the South African Indian community and had “great respect” for her granddad.

“In 1995 I travelled with Madiba to India for his first visit to the country. In a short seven-day trip he took the time to visit and talk to the people behind the anti-apartheid movement.

“He also visited and placed a wreath at my grandfather’s grave and visited the ashram in Ahmedabad where my grandfather lived, spending two days there. Mandela was deeply moved,” said Gandhi.

A young adult when Mandela was arrested, Gandhi said she called Mandela in the 1950s and 1960s the “Black Pimpernel”.

The name was based on the lead character in the play The Scarlet Pimpernel, set during the French Revolution’s period known as the “Reign of Terror”. The hero of the play rescues people from execution and is a master of disguise and a quick thinking escape artist and he becomes the subject of an international manhunt by the French revolutionary authorities.

“He [Mandela] was this black man who was able to challenge the powerful government machine. He would be on TV and radio, make public appearances and still not be caught. He was our hero,” said Gandhi.

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