Patil opens IT centre in Durban
Gulf Times Sun, 06 May 2012
President Pratibha Patil unveils a plaque of the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Information Technology at the Mahatma Gandhi Settlement in Phoenix, north of Durban yesterday. It is the site where Gandhi began non-violent struggle against apartheid. Patil is on a six-day official tour to South Africa.
On Sunday, President Pratibha Patil visited places associated with Mahatma Gandhi in Durban.
Her first stop was the Phoenix Settlement, established in 1904 by Gandhi when he was 35. This was originally across 100 acres bought with the money he earned as a barrister. It has now shrunk to barely six-seven acres. Pheonix Settlement was visualised as a home for Indian families whose men were in jail for protesting against the colonial regime. Patil said, “It was here that Gandhiji adopted Satyagraha as a vital tenet in his message of peace and non-violence.”
Patil laid the foundation stone for an information technology centre at the Phoenix Settlement. India is helping the South African government set up the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Information Technology. New Delhi hopes to, in Patil’s words, help “make it a world class IT education facility and fulfil needs and aspirations of the South African youth”.
Patil was shown around by the chairman of Pheonix Trust, Mewaram Gobim, and taken through the house, Satyagraha, where Gandhi had interactions with Dr John Dube, an author and activist, and activist-preacher Isaiah Shembe. Patil paid her respects to Gandhi’s statue at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Interpretation, and met several trustees and South Africans of Indian origin.
Even after Mahatma Gandhi moved to India after spending 23 years in South Africa, this place remained an important centre for resistance against apartheid. Patil and the accompanying delegation, including Minister for Communications and IT Sachin Pilot, were told how Gandhi started his newspaper, Indian Opinion, and that it continued to be published till 1960.
The other stop on Patil’s Gandhi heritage tour was the house of Dr John Dube, where she met his daughter, 83-year old Lulu Dube, who recalled Gandhi’s contribution to the movement against colonial regime and that he used to have “endless discussions, pacing up and down” with her father.
The delegation was told that the adjacent building — where Patil concluded her tour — is a school where Nelson Mandela had his last underground meeting before being arrested. This school turned into a polling booth on the day Mandela cast his vote for the first time as a free South African on April 24, 1994.