President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday said he was saddened by the death of former United Democratic Front leader and ANC Member of Parliament Mewa Ramgobin.
The struggle stalwart and author, who died this week, would have turned 84 next month, the Presidency said.
Presidency spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said Ramgobin was at the forefront of the revival of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC), which was originally founded by Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi to unite South Africans of Indian origin against increasingly anti-Indian legislation, and later led struggles against apartheid.
Zuma said: “The country has lost one of its instrumental human rights and political activists in the past decades who dedicated a great deal of his life to the struggle for liberation and fiercely fought racial discrimination. We wish to convey our deepest condolences to the Ramgobin family and may his soul rest in peace.”
On Tuesday, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal said that Ramgobin had died in Cape Town.
ANC provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said Ramgobin, at the height of the Congress Alliance in the 1950s, was politicised at meetings where leaders reported on the Freedom Charter gathering in Kliptown, and the great potato boycott.
Ntuli said, following the Sharpville Massacre in 1960, Ramgobin was among those who embarked on a protest fast at Phoenix Settlement in the Gandhi tradition.
Ramgobin, Ntuli said, was a radical student activist and was elected president of the SRC at the University of Natal [Non-European Section].
“He soon attracted the attention of the notorious apartheid security branch. He was banned for 17 years and house arrested for 12 years. His young family escaped certain death when a parcel bomb was sent to him in 1973.
“He was among the first to mobilise for the release of comrade Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, convening and chairing the Committee for Clemency in 1971. He was also instrumental in the revival of the Natal Indian Congress in the political vacuum of the early 1970s left by the banning of the ANC.”
Ntuli said Ramgobin was also a gifted orator and writer of Waiting To Live and Prisms Of Light.
“He was the founding treasurer of the United Democratic Front in 1983 and was charged with treason in 1985. He sought refuge in the British Consulate in Durban with comrade Archie Gumede and other leaders. This drew worldwide attention to the internal insurrection against apartheid in the mid-1980s,” Ntuli said.