A series of postage stamps in commemoration of the arrival of the first indentured Indian labourers to South Africa 151 years ago have been launched here.

In partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture, the Department of Communications and the South African Post Office, two stamps have been launched, with a further two sets set for launch next year.

The stamps feature a sketch of the S S Truro, the ship that brought the first indentured labourers for the sugarcane plantations in Natal province from India in 1860, and photographs of passengers coming ashore at the Durban port.

Poignant reminder

There are also pictures of sugarcane cutters to serve as a poignant reminder of the extreme hardship and endurance of the early labourers from whom most of the 1.4 million South Africans of Indian origin are descended.

The Truro left Madras and anchored in Port Natal on November 16, 1860 to start off the arrival of thousands of Indians until the last ship, the Umlazi, in 1911.

“This is in honour of those gallant Indian pioneers, our forefathers and mothers who, due in large part to economic hardship so many decades ago, made a difficult but conscious choice to depart the shores of India and set sail into the unknown, across treacherous and unpredictable oceans,” Minister for Public Service and Administration, Roy Padayachie, who launched the stamps here said.

The launch incorporated an inter-faith prayer as well as the unveiling of two memorial slabs at the suburb of Belvedere, about 30 km north of Durban, so named after the second ship that brought labourers from India.

The memorial peace slabs bear the names of anti-apartheid icons such as John Langalibalele Dube, the first President of the ANC, Ahmed Timol, Shanti Naidoo, Kader Asmal, Walter and Albertina Sisulu.

Mr. Padayachie said that these slabs were a tribute “to the sacrifices of the indentured Indian labourers and liberation fighters for their immense contribution to build a democratic South Africa we have today.”

He appreciated the indigenous African people for accepting the Indian labourers so that they could stay and make the new country their home for themselves and the generations that followed.

The Minister said that over the decades, the Indian community had made significant contributions to the cultural, social and political life of South Africa, adding to the country's diverse cultures.

— PTI