Well, I want to take this opportunity, despite him counselling me otherwise, to remind you of his contribution, as a South African of Indian heritage, to the freedom we enjoy today in South Africa, and that of countless other Indian comrades. For you to generalise negatively about Indians as a race seems to denigrate the contribution he and so many other Indian comrades have made, many of whom are still alive today.
Ebrahim was accused number one in what was known as the “Little Rivonia trial” in 1964, after he and Ronnie Kasrils had spent years engaging in sabotage against the apartheid state in Natal, pulling off some of the most stunning acts such as bringing down electricity pylons and taking out the electricity down the Durban coastline.
They were the founding members of MK in Natal, and they risked everything to overthrow the racist state. When Ebie was eventually caught trying to warn a black comrade that their cell had been compromised, he was almost beaten to death by the security police and then almost drowned. That day led to 15 years on Robben Island sleeping on cold cement floors, eating mielie rice, and breaking stones for eight hours a day, and studying by night.
After his release, he became the head of the ANC’s political-military committee in Swaziland where he had to live in a different underground house every six months, and was being hunted by the apartheid state. In 1986 he was kidnapped by apartheid intelligence agents. In his second trial for treason in 1989, the racist judge said he never learnt his lesson the first time on the island and he was sentencing him to a further 20 years.
I am not relaying this story to boast of his struggle credentials, but to remind South Africans and yourself of the selfless contribution of South Africans of Indian origin to fighting a brutal and racist system so that South Africa can belong to all who live in it. Ebie was just one of many.
There was Sunny Singh who was part of the Natal sabotage campaign and spent 10 years on Robben Island, Essu Chiba, Ahmed Kathrada, Indres Naidoo, George Naicker, Kisten Moonsamy, Natvarlal Babenia, Siva Pillay, Phyllis Naidoo, Reggie Vandeyar, Strini Moodley, Kesval Moonsamy, Shirish Nanabai, Dullah Omar, Yusuf Dadoo, and Billy Nair. Valliamma Munuswami a young girl of 16 died in 1914 after marching with Gandhi against the racist state. Ahmed Timol was tortured and thrown from the 10th-floor window of John Vorster square in 1971. Krishna Rabilal was killed in the Motala raid in 1981, and Lenny Naidoo was killed crossing the border from Swaziland into Natal. In the name of all those comrades and so many others, we cannot say that the majority of Indians in this country are racist.
I would like to invite you and your comrades to engage in a dialogue with a number of struggle veterans on Lilliesleaf farm on the issue of racism in South Africa. As an important political leader with influence over the masses in South Africa, I believe that your participation in such a dialogue could serve to bring about greater understanding and ubuntu in our country.
Shannon Ebrahim is Independent Media’s Foreign Editor. This article first appeared on the website of Independent Online