South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid


Religious Faith and Anti-Apartheid Activism

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Gandhi's granddaughter, Ela Gandhi became vice president of the Natal Indian Congress in 1970. She also participated in several support groups including the Detainees Support Committee in Durban, which assisted people who had been arrested or imprisoned. To try to stop her political activities, the government banned Ela Gandhi for a total of eight and a half years. Recalling her childhood, Gandhi remembers Hindu thought being a formative part of her value system:
[My father] taught me from the Bhagavad-Gita and the Ramayana, telling me that at the heart of Hinduism was struggle between good and evil. From an early age I learned of the dharmic and adharmic forces, which are the forces of righteous and unrighteous rule...Therefore I saw the struggle against oppression and apartheid in South Africa as a natural consequence of my Hindu belief (Villa-Vicencio 92, 93).
During the later years of apartheid, the organizations Jews for Justice and Jews for Social Justice became important voices of protest. From the earliest days of apartheid, Jewish South African served as committed individual members of political organizations.

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One of these was Ben Turok, a current Member of Parliament. In a 2006 interview, Turok describes the impact of his Jewish upbringing on his political views and activities. The son of Jewish immigrants from Latvia, Turok, his brothers and his mother arrived in Cape Town in 1934 to join his father who had immigrated five years before. Turok remembers the importance of politics to his father and to other members of the Cape Town Jewish community. His father's political beliefs influenced his early political thought, but once he attended college, Turok began to embrace more "radicalized" positions:
I grew up in a house which was very political in the sense that they were part of a small Jewish group in Cape Town, almost all refugees. And my home language was Yiddish. And the discussion was all about Jewish culture and history of the Jewish people and so on. So I imbibed certain liberalism on racial issues which most South Africans did not have. [Watch Turok interview segment]
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Muslims became active in anti-apartheid organizing in the 1980s. Several Muslim leaders called on their followers to join with persons of other faiths to oppose the apartheid system of government. In a speech in 1983, Imam Gassan Solomon urged listeners at his Mosque to take an active part in the liberation struggle and oppose the Tricameral Constitution Bill:
It is a bill to make apartheid, the system of separate development, the suffering under which people have undergone in this country for may years, to make it more palatable in the eyes of the world ... this new type of government based on the division of people, into "Indian" into "Coloured" to the exclusion of the majority of people in this country... What do we do as Muslims? What action do we take? ...Let us get this straight that the Muslims in this part of the world are part and parcel of the oppressed, that the Muslims in this part of the world should join forces with the rest of the oppressed against this evil system of apartheid. [Watch video segment]
 
AODL African Studies Center MSU Matrix NEH