There are several reasons why this book is worth buying and reading.
For those who still believe that Gandhi has much to say to the world, you will discover that there are lots of people in South Africa who would agree with you, and you will be inspired by what they are doing or have done to ensure that Gandhi’s ideas continue to be taken seriously.
You will discover that these Gandhi enthusiasts from all over South Africa are being highly creative in the ways they have chosen to keep his ideas alive: walking, marching, cycling, spinning, erecting statues, restoring buildings, giving peace awards, mounting exhibitions, organising cricket series and international soccer matches – the list is endless, even including one that I found most moving: collecting school books for poor rural schools in the Free State – that province which was a no-go area for Indian people for many years.
On a rather different note, you will be reminded that Gandhi wasn’t born a Mahatma, he wasn’t even really a Mahatma for much of his 21 year stint in South Africa. Yes, there was even a time when he said things that we would now regard as racist, but he moved on in his thinking, was willing to admit that he had been wrong, and came to see that all forms of discrimination against any group of people are totally unacceptable – and then worked passionately against such discrimination.
In this book you will find a treasure chest of information about South African history and a most impressive collection of photos that you will want to keep visiting. You will also be reminded of the many sayings of Gandhi, including this witty one that is one of my favourites: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
You will be struck by the number of significant African leaders who have had the highest regard for Gandhi: people like John Dube, Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, Kenneth Kaunda, Thabo Mbeki – and, of course most notably, Nelson Mandela who said: “The voice of Mahatma Gandhi and his committed search for peace, is now more than ever, needed in world affairs.”
Finally, if you are feeling rather gloomy about South Africa’s prospects at present – and there are lots of reasons to feel gloomy – this book will give you 101 reasons to be optimistic. Fakir Hassen should be congratulated on a fine achievement.