Two Indian-origin women freedom activists awarded South Africa’s highest National Order awards

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South African President Jacob Zuma, Wikimedia

Pretoria, 01 May, 2017: In a proud moment for India, two Indian-origin women freedom activists (Fatima Meer and Shantie Naidoo) were awarded South Africa’s highest National Order awards by the South-African President Jacob Zuma on 28 April, 2017 (Friday).

The Order of Luthuli in silver was posthumously received by Fatima Meer while Shantie Naidoo received the same award at the Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.

Naidoo is a descendant of Thambi Naidoo, one of Gandhi’s most trusted lieutenants during his tenure in South Africa at the turn of the last century.

Shantie Naidoo joined 21 other people who were part of a group which suffered at the hands of the apartheid-era security police. The police tortured them and held them in solitary confinement. It is the same confinement from where Meer, a lifelong friend of the late Nelson Mandela together with her husband Ismail Meer, started her activist career as a high school student aged 17 in 1945.

At the time of Presidency Meer quoted, “The Indian community suffered the enactment of the first Segregation Act which restricted their economic and residential rights to specific areas in the country.”

Meer assembled high school students and established the ‘Students Passive Resistance Committee’ in order to canvass and raise funds for the Passive Resistance Campaign.

“The Indian community resisted by organising Satyagraha, the first since Gandhi’s Satyagraha at the close of the century,” Meer further continued.

Outshining as a historian and sociologist, Meer was a stimulating writer. Her writing masterpieces include Mandela’s biography and the script for Akbar Khan’s film ‘Taj Mahal’.

Her book ‘Portrait of Indian South Africans’ was published in 1969. Being a socially committed human, she donated the total proceeds of her book to the ‘Gandhi Settlement’ towards the building of the Gandhi Museum and Clinic at the ‘Phoenix Settlement’. Phoenix Settlement, an initiative by Gandhi is now managed and supervised by his granddaughter Ela Gandhi.

Meer passed away in 2010. Before her death, she served as a member of the parliament under the Presidentship of Mandela since 1994.

prepared by Himanshi Goyal of Newsgram