City had ‘vibrant history of anti-apartheid activism’

2018-05-07 16:46
Dr Zweli Mkhize and Rabia Motala, the wife of Dr Chota Motala, at the launch of the biography of Motala.

Dr Zweli Mkhize and Rabia Motala, the wife of Dr Chota Motala, at the launch of the biography of Motala. (Shan Pillay)

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The contribution of Pietermaritzburg in the fight for democracy should not be forgotten, activists said at the launch of Chota Motala: A Biography of Political Activism in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

The book, published by UKZN Press, was launched at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus on Saturday. The event was attended by ministers Pravin Gordhan, Yunus Carrim, Dr Zweli Mkhize and John Jeffery.

Also in attendance was KZN MEC for Human Settlements Ravi Pillay, and members of Motala’s family, including his wife Rabia.

Speakers described Motala as principled, diplomatic, and one who was generous with advice and loved cricket.

The book’s author, Professor Goolam Vahed, told The Witness it highlighted the lengths activists like Motala went to in order to foster unity across races.

He said: “Pietermaritzburg has a very rich and vibrant history of anti-apartheid activism which has been largely neglected because of the bias towards the bigger urban centres and more iconic leaders.

“Much of this history remains to be told and I hope that in future the histories of people like A.S. Chetty, Harry Gwala, Moses Mabhida, and others will be covered. There are many historically important places in Pietermaritzburg that need to be recognised.”

Motala’s daughter, Professor Shireen Motala, echoed Vahed: “I think the book celebrates the traditions of Pietermaritzburg’s contribution to the history of the struggle and non-racism in South Africa.

“PMB has a unique place in history in that it fostered a number of important leaders ... and made an important contribution. The challenge is how we ensure that the values these leaders espoused continued to prevail in the current context when there is so much political uncertainty.”

Mkhize, who penned the foreword to the book, said he hoped it would inspire more of its kind. “Had it not been for the book, we would not be remembering him and all of them today. We all have a degree of responsibility to remember those who brought the precious thing that is democratic South Africa.”

He remembered Motala as someone who always preached peace.

Gordhan said such books acted as collective memories for future and current generations.

“Chota’s life will remind all of us of non-racialism in our history which we are beginning to forget ... whereas non-racialism was crafted through the struggle where we realised all oppressed people had an interest.”

Motala lived at 433 Boom Street, where Nelson Mandela stayed the night before he was arrested in Howick in 1962. Part of the Bill of Rights was drawn up at that house.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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