Smriti Kak Ramachandran

NEW DELHI: During his eventful two decades in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi’s association with Cape Town is chronicled as the city from where he began his journey back to India in 1914. Almost 94 years later, Gandhiji has returned to the city where he was privy to several crucial events including the protests against the then revised immigration bill.

Following a suggestion by President Pratibha Patil, a bust of Mahatma Gandhi has been installed in the city’s University of Western Cape, which boasts a similar bust of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, also an acclaimed crusader against apartheid.

According to a Rashtrapati Bhavan aide, the President who had made a transit halt at Cape Town in April this year suggested that like Durban and Johannesburg, Cape Town too should have a souvenir to remember him by.

‘Keen follower’

“The President is a keen follower of Gandhiji’s philosophy. She is a Gandhian and refers to his teachings in her speeches. While she was in Cape Town, she suggested that like Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg, Cape Town too should have a commemorative where homage can be paid to Gandhiji,” said an official.

Acting on the President’s advice, the Indian High Commission in South Africa procured a bust of Mahatma Gandhi designed by Gautam Pal from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and gifted it to the University.

“The installation of the bust was carried out at a ceremony on November 14. The bust along with 350 books on India are now part of the University,” said the official.

Cape Town, best known for its harbours is the seat of the National Parliament first played host to Mahatma Gandhi on February 17, 1905 when he visited the city by Parsee Rustomjee and subsequently left for Johannesburg.

“During her visits abroad, the President has met officials of several Gandhian centres that function in those countries. Even during her recent visit to Indonesia, Ms. Patil was scheduled to go to Gandhi Memorial International School, but the trip was cut short due to the terror attacks in Mumbai. She still managed to meet some of the students apart from the principal and the chairperson of the school,” said the official.