By Nereshnee Govender
The 3 rd Annual Mahatma Gandhi Salt March will take place in Durban on Sunday, 6 May 2007. The 22km march will begin at 8:00am at the Phoenix Settlement in Inanda and will end at the Battery Beach in Durban where Gandhiji’s ashes were immersed in the sea. Significant Anniversaries
This year’s Salt March will be commemorating many significant South African anniversaries including the 30 th anniversary of the death in detention of Steve Biko, the dynamic and outspoken leader of our people; the 40 th anniversary of the death of ANC President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Chief Albert Luthuli; the 60 th anniversary of the “Three Doctors Pact” signed in 1947 by Dr A.B Xuma, Dr G.M Naicker and Dr Y.M Dadoo, the then presidents of the ANC, the Natal Indian Congress and the Transvaal Indian Congress respectively and the 90 th anniversary of the birth of Oliver Reginald Tambo, a giant of the liberation struggle.
Ronnie Govender, Chairperson of the Mahatma Gandhi Salt March Organizing Committee says, “With the organizing of the Salt March a number of observations have been made and commemorating these anniversaries will assist in educating our people of the relevance of the anniversaries and the positive impact it made in achieving peaceful change in South Africa.” “In spite of achieving a smooth transition from apartheid to democracy, the aftermath of democracy has been riddled with crime and corruption,” says Govender. “The government has called for a movement to look at the reconstruction and development of the soul, a programme for moral regeneration and the Salt March is one event that will undoubtedly contribute towards moral regeneration,” adds Govender. According to the organizing committee the Salt March has been generating much interest and further extensive educational programmes are being planned.
A committee comprising of a number of community based organizations, the eThekwini Municipality, Lotus FM, Ukhozi FM, religious organizations and others have come together to organize the Salt March for peace. The first Salt March was held on 10 April 2005. Govender says, “There was a hundred percent increase in participants at the 2006 Salt March and this year we are expecting many more people than last year.” Govender calls on all individuals to participate in the March. “We encourage people from all walks of life to participate – the young and old, people from different race groups and the differently abled. We have also invited many celebrities to join us in the march for peace,” adds Govender. Govender says, “It is important for the younger generation to have an understanding of Gandhian philosophies and how peace can be achieved through nonviolent means especially because violence among youth is fast becoming a norm in our modern world.” Buses will be provided at Battery Beach to take participants to Phoenix Settlement and will leave the Battery Beach at 6:00 am. “There will be a bus on route so that participants can hop in if they are tired. There is no entry fee and all participants will receive a specially moulded Gandhian medal and a T-shirt at the finish,” says Govender. A short programme of activities has been planned and many prizes will be given at the finish.
In celebrating the Salt March the organizing committee will also pay particular reference to the tenth clause of the Freedom Charter which reads as follows:
- There shall be Peace and Friendship
- South Africa shall be a fully independent state which respects the rights and sovereignty of all nations;
- South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation not war;
- Peace and Friendship amongst all people shall be secured by upholding the equal rights, opportunities and status of all;
- The people of the protectorates Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland shall be free to decide for themselves their own future;
- The right of all peoples of Africa to independence and self-government shall be recognized and shall be the basis of close cooperation.
Ela Gandhi granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi says, “The South African Defence Force as well as our foreign policy has upheld the function of peacekeeping, negotiations and of goodwill with neighbouring countries. This is an important principle which we would like to highlight as all those who will be marching in commemoration of the Salt March are marching for peace.” “If everyone observes this important clause in our Freedom Charter we would surely have world peace,” adds Gandhi.
The Salt March is a re-enactment of the original Salt March in India that took place on April 6 th 1930. This march was organized by Gandhiji and was regarded as his biggest and most powerful defiance campaign. The primary objective of the Dandi march was to achieve full independence of India. Gandhiji mobilized hundreds of people from all over India and marched 241 miles in 24 days from the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to the tiny seaside village of Dandi and defied the tax on salt by making their own salt. Through this little act the people of India empowered themselves and shook the might of British imperialism. Gandhi says, “The significance of our Salt March in Durban is to lead people on the path of peace and nonviolence.”
During the India march Gandhiji addressed the crowds on the purpose of the march and in doing so he strengthened their will to resist the force of the British. During this era the British made salt production a government monopoly and introduced punishment for illegal manufacture and possession of salt. Salt is an essential part of every person’s diet and to place such restrictions on salt was an imperialist effort to subjugate the people of India. This tax on salt made the price of salt exorbitant for ordinary citizens in India. So it was that salt was chosen as an object for defiance. Many laughed at the idea and British Ministers scoffed at this so called infantile move, little realizing how this little act of defiance will shake the might of The Empire. The first defiance took place when Gandhiji reached the seaside and picked up a pinch of salt and said, “With this I am shaking the foundation of the British empire.” From that moment on thousands of Indian citizens began making salt and buying and selling illegal salt. “The impact was unpredicted in modern Indian history. Young and old, male and female, responded to the call to strike against British rule. The first arrests began after the visit to Dandi.”
Arrest and Imprisonment
Before executing his next plan – a raid on the Dharasana salt works Gandhi was arrested and imprisoned without trial. Scores of marchers continued to protest and resistance mounted. Eventually to intensify the movement thousands went to Dharasana. The police stormed on the marchers and fired blows to their heads. None of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They did not flinch or resort to the use of violence. Many of the marchers fell to the ground. Their dhotis (white clothes) were covered with blood. It was a horrific site. There were injured marchers everywhere. But amidst this, survivors marched on without braking ranks, until they were also struck down. Two died and three hundred were hospitalized with serious injuries. Sixty thousand Indians were imprisoned as a result of this civil disobedience campaign but eventually non-violence led to freedom for India. These oppressed people were given a new tool – Satyagraha or truth force.
Inspiration to South Africa
Gandhi says, “This defiance was a demonstration of people’s power and for many in South Africa it was significant in that it inspired us to engage in our many mass action campaigns.” Gandhi adds, “This tool has been used effectively by many oppressed people all over the world. Many of our heroes and leaders have recognized the power of Gandhiji’s ideas.” The Salt March is also a call to pledge support for all the oppressed people of the world; to discover the meaning of Ubuntu; a call for an end to all forms of violence and wars; to advocate global peace; to promote equity, social justice and a better life for all people; for an end to racism, sexism, religious hostility and environmental degradation. The observance of this important event is to remind humanity that there is a better way of dealing with conflict – the nonviolent way. “Today more than ever people need to be reminded that non violence, negotiations and patience are important virtues which need to be cultivated and instilled in us to build a better and brighter world for future generations,” says Gandhi.
The Salt March organising committee calls on all interested persons to volunteer their services for the March. The organizing committee can be contacted on 031-308 54 04 or 031-308 67 10.