Johannesburg: Drawing parallels between the hardships endured by the people of India and South Africa under the colonial rule and recalling the transformation that Mahatma Gandhi underwent during his stay in South Africa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that it was here that ‘ Mohandas’ became ‘Mahatma’.
Addressing the Indian diaspora in the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, Prime Minister Modi said generations of Indians fought, suffered and sacrificed so that South Africa could breathe freely.
Colorful cultural programs were held for the strong gathering of 11, 000 people ahead of the Prime Minister’s arrival. Prime Minister Modi thanked those who had gathered for making it to the event and that too from far off places, citing Botswana.
“I bring to you the warm wishes of 1.25 billion Indians,” he said to an enthusiastic crowd.
Asserting that Indian languages such as Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Urdu and Telugu continue to enrich the fabric of South African society, Prime Minster Modi said that a common heritage keeps people connected to India.
“We may be on different time zones, our ancestors may have been separated in history, our nationality may be different our support may be for diff cricket teams. But our common heritage makes sure we remain connected in hearts and minds,” he said.
Prime Minister Modi said his visit to South Africa reminds him of the struggles and bravery of their ancestors during apartheid.
Recalling that India was the first country that the South African cricket team toured after the end of their 21-year old ban, the Prime Minister said, “In 1991, on 10th July, international sanctions on SA’s cricket were removed. SA team then played its first cricket match in India. India, which had boycotted South Africa during the time of apartheid, then warmly welcomed them.”
Prime Minister Modi further described South Africa as “the birth place of Satyagraha” as it was here that Mahatma Gandhi conceptualised his politics.
Prime Minister Modi further read out a farewell quote from Mahatma Gandhi when he was about to leave South Africa, which said, “this continent has become sacred and dear to me next only to my motherland. I leave the shores of South Africa with a heavy heart and the distance will separate me from South Africa but it will draw me close and its welfare will be a matter of great concern.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a ceremonial welcome at the Union Building of Pretoria, which was followed by one-on-one private conversation with President Jacob Zuma and delegation-level talks.
In the evening, he visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation and participated in the India-South Africa Business Meet.
He also met prominent anti-apartheid revolutionaries and their families.