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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Sonia gets emotional at Mandela meeting

Sonia Gandhi got a little emotional during a courtesy call on former South African president Nelson Mandela at the office of the African National Congress (ANC) in Johannesburg.

world Updated: Aug 23, 2007 13:17 IST
Fakir Hassen
Fakir Hassen

India's Congress party president Sonia Gandhi got a little emotional during a courtesy call on former South African president Nelson Mandela at the office of the African National Congress (ANC) in Johannesburg.

Gandhi heard how the ANC would be eternally indebted to her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi, her husband Rajiv Gandhi and to India for support to the anti-apartheid movement.

Introducing Gandhi to guests and a huge media contingent on Wednesday, veteran ANC leader Ahmed Kathrada said the senior Gandhis and India as a country had played a major role in the struggle against South Africa's apartheid government.

"Through all her life (Indira Gandhi) gave her unwavering support to the ANC and for the struggle for a non-racial democratic South Africa. She was instrumental in setting up the ANC office in Delhi and India was the first country to accord diplomatic status to the ANC," said Kathrada, who was imprisoned with Mandela for many years on Robben Island.

"For this and other reasons, we are delighted to welcome Miss Sonia Gandhi as president of the Indian National Congress."

Reciprocating by reminding the audience that she had joined the celebration of Kathrada's birthday the previous evening soon after she arrived in Johannesburg, Gandhi said she was equally delighted to be in South Africa to help celebrate the centenary of the satyagraha movement of non-violent protest started by Mahatma Gandhi at the turn of the last century during his tenure in the country.

"India has decided to have a number of lectures on the relevance of this satyagraha movement in different universities of the country," Gandhi said, adding that she would deliver the inaugural lecture at Cape Town University on Thursday.

"The presence of not only Madiba (the affectionate name by which Mandela is known) but so many of you freedom fighters who struggled for the freedom of South Africa from the brutal regime of apartheid is an honour and a very moving moment for me.

"India has supported the movement from the very beginning, with the Indian National Congress, from Nehru to Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi, and that support will always be there."

Choking slightly from emotion, Gandhi said: "It was for me a very moving moment as sitting (in Mandela's office) I was reminded of the role that my husband had played in supporting and helping with the building of that very office.

Gandhi also apologised for her short visit: "My only regret is that every time I have been here, it has been too short a visit and too little time to see and meet up with very many old friends and see this beautiful country."

But shortly after her arrival, Gandhi did manage to pay a brief visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and was also expected to visit Robben Island before her departure on Thursday.

Besides the courtesy call on Mandela, Gandhi also met senior officials of the ANC and President Thabo Mbeki. She was the chief guest on Wednesday evening in Cape Town at the launch of the Jobs for Growth Fund for Women, hosted by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and multinational insurance giant Old Mutual in a government and private sector partnership. Old Mutual is also active in India.

Gandhi is to deliver the inaugural lecture at Cape Town University in the Gandhi Lecture Series on the theme 'The Relevance of Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st Century', before returning to India.

First Published: Aug 23, 2007 13:04 IST