Earlier auction had fallen through as the house was not registered
India will make another attempt to acquire the house of Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg, where he had lived a century ago, to convert it into a memorial.
After learning that the house, where Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had stayed from 1908 to 1910 as a young lawyer, was on sale, state-owned Coal India Ltd. attempted to buy it in August 2009 but it was snapped up by a French tourism company in an auction for what was believed at the time to be almost twice the asking price of $3,77,029.
Union Minister of State for Coal Sriprakash Jaiswal said that despite the auction, the house could not be sold as it was not registered. Coal India is now hopeful that it would be able to purchase it, he said.
“The owner of the house has expressed her willingness to talk to us regarding our proposal to buy Gandhiji's house and build a memorial there. I will leave for official work in Mozambique and South Africa on January 4 and will talk to her during my visit to Johannesburg. Hopefully, we should be able to buy the house this time,” Mr. Jaiswal told PTI.
Officers and other employees of the ‘navratna' company have volunteered to contribute a day's salary each in order to collect money towards the purchase, he said.
After it was announced in 2009 that the house was auctioned off, the government had expressed disappointment but said that it would continue efforts to acquire the heritage property through the public sector company.
“The matter concerns national sentiment and I will leave no stone unturned to acquire the historic property and declare it a national monument,” Mr. Jaiswal had said.
Mahatma Gandhi, who went to South Africa in 1893 to handle a legal case in Pretoria, had moved to Johannesburg in 1903.
The thatched-roof house, modelled like traditional African rondavel, was designed by Gandhi's confidant and architect Hermann Kallenbach.
Informally referred to as ‘the Kraal,' the house is one of several that Gandhi lived in during his stay here, as he developed his Satyagraha philosophy and led the local Indian community in their struggle against oppression.
The Mahatma had also stayed at the Gandhi Square in central Johannesburg; the Johannesburg Prison where he was once detained; the Victory House, where he practised law; the Hindu cemetery in Johannesburg which was started by him; and Tolstoy Farm at the Lenasia township here.
There are several other Gandhi sites in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, where Gandhi first initiated his Satyagraha or ‘passive resistance' philosophy.
The sites include the Mahatma Gandhi settlement in the area called Phoenix and the Pietermaritzburg railway station where Gandhi was thrown off a train for travelling in a ‘whites-only' coach.