KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsGandhi Statue
Opposite the old colonial buildings on Church Street in Pietermaritzburg stands the statue of Gandhi, whose notorious ejection from a train shaped his unique version of nonviolent resistance, known as ‘Satyagraha’ or passive resistance.
In this bronze statue he is depicted in his traditional dhoti, staff in hand whilst the other hand reaches out in peace, the statue a commemoration of the centenary of his enforced removal in 1893 from the train because he was a man of colour in first class, who politely refused to move to third class.
Mahatma Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa, eleven of them in KwaZulu-Natal. The moment he was thrown off the train is believed to have been a pivotal point in his life and shaped his decision to remain in the country to resist the oppression of Indians in the country.
At the time he was thrown off the train, Gandhi was a young lawyer sent to South Africa from India, having studied law in Britain, on a temporary assignment on behalf of a local Indian trader.
His active, yet peaceful, resistance to political injustices included the writing of letters of protest, the signing of mass petitions and the formation of the Natal Indian Congress. He was a 'thorn in the side' of the colonial government.
The Attorney General of Natal was to write: “Mr Gandhi is an able but discontented person, and is not as grateful as he might be for concessions to a class whose interests he so ably espouses.”
His supporters were to see in him a marvellous spiritual power.
He established a weekly newspaper, Indian Opinion, in 1903 as a way to get his message across in writing. It was an important mouthpiece for the Indian community – many of the articles written by Gandhi himself. Without the publication, he later said, satyagraha would not have been possible.
Gandhi was posthumously granted Freedom of the City in Pietermaritzburg in April 1997. Mandela, who was president at the time and had himself received Freedom of the City earlier in the same day, started his speech by saying: “Today we are righting a century-old wrong.”
For an excellent account of Gandhi's time in South Africa, read Gandhi in South Africa.