Port Shepstone marks arrival of Indians in 1860

2011-11-07 00:00

PORT Shepstone residents commemorated the arrival in 1860 of indentured labourers from India yesterday when a memorial plaque was unveiled at the Civic Centre by the MEC for Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation, Weziwe Thusi.

In her address Thusi said that the office of the premier has been and will be unveiling similar plaques around the province in commemoration of the event.

“Last year we held a massive celebration at Moses Madiba Stadium to celebrate the arrival of Indians. Not everybody could attend that function, so the premier decided that we will celebrate it at a local level with communities as well.”

Thusi said the plaque will serve as a reminder to future generations of their forebears’ contribution to South Africa. “Indian leaders and heroes of the past played a crucial role in achieving freedom from apartheid. The arrival of Mahathma Gandhi brought about a massive change in politics and how we demonstrated.”

Without the unity of all races fighting against oppression, South Africa would still have been struggling for liberation, Thusi said, and once again South Africans must pool their efforts to take the country forward and strive for a better future for all.

“There are some elements who want to disrupt the process of nation-building and install conflict. We must reject such elements.”

All the dignitaries who took to the podium at the gala event echoed her appeal, emphasising the democracy that allows South Africans to celebrate its rich cultural diversity.

Ravi Pillay, chief whip in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, said such events must not be celebrated exclusively.

“It is a significant moment, but we need to locate where we are and what are our tasks as a nation and community. It is an opportunity to express our cultural interaction and shared histories in the broader community.”

Hibiscus Coast Mayor Cynthia Mqwebu spoke of the tenacious nature of the Indian migrant labourers and their will to overcome every adversity.

“The generations of Indians have since contributed greatly to our society in terms of business, arts and culture…”

• witness@feveronline.co.za

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