The passing of a political icon

2019-02-13 06:00
PHOTO: suppliedPat Thambu died on Sunday at the age of 91.

PHOTO: suppliedPat Thambu died on Sunday at the age of 91.

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AFTER having devoted his life to fighting for the people of South African during apartheid times, all the while providing for a family of six, Satheaseelan Thambu (commonly known as Pat) died at his home at the age of 91.

Born on February 29, 1928, Pat never considered himself as 91 as he looked at the date when he was born, a leap year, and jokingly considered himself 22, according to his family.

In a personal memoir detailing his life, Pat states that selling newspapers is what got him into activism in the first place.

“I used to go to Saville Street, to the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) office, and sell Guardian newspapers. That’s when my interest for the fight for freedom started,” said Pat said in his memoir where he also stated that meeting Dr Monty Naicker­ of the NIC (who reminded him of Nelson Mandela) inspired him.

In 1955 Pat went on to join the NIC, Pietermaritzburg branch, where he played significant roles in both The Potato Boycott of 1958 and The Freedom Charter.

“The Potato Boycott took place to prevent people from buying potatoes in sympathy with the farm workers who were forced to use their hands to dig up potatoes.

“I collected signatures from residents in Edendale from morning to evening for which to be presented at the signing of the Freedom Charter,” said Pat, who in his memoir remembers that, while collecting the signatures, he was accommodated for the day by a fellow comrade who offered him beer, tea and biscuits.

Pat also recalls in his memoir the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign which took place at the intersection of Umbilo Road and Gale Street in Durban to highlight the many ways people were being oppressed under the apartheid government.

It was not all politics for Pat though as in 1953 he met Chellamma Chengan­ (Daisy), whom he fell in love with. They were married on February 14, 1954. Daisy and Pat would have celebrated their 65th anniversary this Valentine’s Day.

Daisy said that she still remembered how she first noticed Pat: “He caught my eye with his dressing. He was so particular in the way his suits were.”

Pat was a very sociable man who enjoyed going out with his friends while Daisy strikes a very reserved figure who enjoys the company of her home and family.

In previous articles that Pat has featured in over the years, he would state that the differences in his wife’s and his own personality never caused a problem, stating that Daisy was always loving and understanding towards him.

Pat lived through various important political dates, such as the 1949 Durban Riots and the first free election in 1994, where he encouraged people from different areas to participate by voting.

Pat is survived by his wife, Daisy, and four children (Rogany, Kenny, Selvum,­ and Jaya).

Pat’s family laid him to rest yesterday at Aryan Hall where they expressed their grief and joy in having been able to share so many years with him.

“He has always been a part of our lives — it is so hard to imagine not having him here anymore. He has done so many great things and has left us with many valuable life lessons that we will carry on to the next generations,” said the family.


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