South Africa: Struggle icon and husband of Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter passes away at 83

A former African National Congress member of Parliament until 2009, he was among the first supporters of the Release Mandela campaign.

By: PTI | Johannesburg | Published:October 19, 2016 10:38 am
south africa, ela gandhi, mahatma gandhi granddaughter, south africa leader dies, nelson mandela Ramgobin was married to Ela Gandhi, a human rights activist and Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter. Twitter photo

South African struggle icon and husband of Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter Mewa Ramgobin has died at the age of 83 after a prolonged illness. Ramgobin, the former president of the Natal Indian Congress which fought discrimination against Indians in South Africa, breathed his last at a Cape Town hospital on Monday.

A family member said he was admitted to hospital on October 8 and was doing well until two days ago.

Ramgobin was married to Ela Gandhi, a human rights activist and Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter.

A former African National Congress member of Parliament until 2009, he was among the first supporters of the Release Mandela campaign. He was charged for treason in 1985.

The couple was involved in the activities of the Phoenix Settlement Trust that was established in 1904 by Gandhi near Durban during his tenure in South Africa.

Just hours before Ramgobin’s death, Ela had departed for Sweden with one of their daughters Asha who is due to receive an honorary degree there.

Their son Kidar said family members were meeting on Tuesday to discuss funeral arrangements, as his mother and sister were due to return only on Sunday.

Ramgobin’s role in politics started in his teenage years, and continued when he enrolled at the University of Natal.

He was among the first to join the Release Mandela Campaign after the infamous treason trial that sent Nelson Mandela to prison for 27 years before he became South Africa’s first democratically-elected president.

Ramgobin faced intense persecution from apartheid-era security forces which banned him for 17 years, many of those under complete house arrest.

He also faced high treason charges after riots broke out in 1994 near the Phoenix Settlement between Indians and the indigenous Zulu community which had lived peacefully side-by side for decades, but was acquitted a year later.

Ramgobin’s commitment to the Gandhian cause saw him establish a Gandhi museum and library, organising the Annual Gandhi Lecture and educate people from different race groups on Gandhian philosophies.

An author of books ‘Waiting To Live’ and ‘Prisms Of Light’, he would have turned 84 on November 10.

In 1983, Ramgobin made international headlines when he and five other members of the resistance movement United Democratic Front sought refuge in the British consulate.

After Mandela’s election, Ramgobin served for several years in the first Parliament of South Africa that was not exclusively white as in the apartheid years.