The Phoenix Settlement Trust in partnership with the Gandhi Development Trust hosted a webinar to announce the declaration of the Phoenix Settlement as a national heritage site on Zoom, Friday, 02 October 2020.
This declaration comes after four years of consistent follow up on an application to have Phoenix declared a world heritage site by the National Association of African American Studies. The Trust perceives this as the first important step towards the international declaration.
These good news were well received and were made public on Mahatma Gandhi’s 151st birthday, since he was born on 2 October 1869 in India.
Among the distinguished guests who joined the discussion about the significance of this site were: Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala, High Commissioner of India, Shri Jaideep Sarkar, Dr Ela Gandhi, Founding Chair:Gandhi Development Trust and Trustee of the Phoenix Settlement Trust, Nhlanhla Ngidi.
Facilitating the webinar was Advocate Vasu Gounden, the Executive Director of the Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) and board member of the Gandhi Development Trust.
Gounden said the Phoenix Settlement Trust was delighted to announce that the South African Heritage Resource Agency, on the eve of Gandhi’s birth anniversary gazetted the declaration of the historical portion of the Phoenix Settlement as the national heritage site.
“It is a site that many tourists who come to South Africa always visit because of the significance of it. The nomination for the recognition was made by the National Association of African American Studies after extensive research. Gandhi established the settlement as an experimental communal farm, one guided by respect for all people and as a challenge of communal laws of segregation, languages and religions,” said Gounden.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said it was significant that the webinar is convened a few weeks before marking the 160 years of the arrival of the first Indian workers in Durban in 1860.
Speaking on the importance of the declaration, Zikalala said the national recognition is important for the people of South Africa.
“As KwaZulu-Natal the significance of this declaration is that this will become the third world heritage site in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. What is unique about this declaration is that it resonates with the heritage of our struggle for liberation and the struggle for peace in KwaZulu-Natal. It serves as a symbol of the revolution and also as a symbol of peace in a province that was once engulfed by high level of violence,” explained Zikalala
Health Minister, Dr Mkhize said the declaration is a better way of commemorating Gandhi’s legacy.
He congratulated the Phoenix Settlement Trust and all those who made it possible, on this remarkable achievement.
“It is a great honour to address you on the evening of 151st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a global icon and a true hero of South Africa’s liberation struggle. There are very few such heroes who would actually lead a liberation struggle in two countries, two different continents, and inspire many more in other parts of the world. This celebration looks at our joint history as the people of South Africa. How it is a reflection of our fight on non-racialism, our fight against apartheid, fight for justice, peace, unity and all of that as having been achieved. This is an important landmark in our long journey of our struggle,” said Dr Mkhize.
He said as the country faces the COVID-19 pandemic, people need to be strong as Gandhi and have the passion to assist one another during the very difficult times to face this invisible enemy.
High Commissioner of India, Sarkar said this declaration honours the work of one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century, stating it also recognises one of the most significant shared historical legacies of India and South Africa.
“I wish to extend my deep gratitude to the government of South Africa and all others that have worked to make this possible. The declaration will preserve for generations the historical site associated with Gandhi’s transformation as a political, social and spiritual being. To preserve Gandhi’s ideas, dear to his heart, we have to invest much more in the Phoenix Settlement. We will require the support, co-operation and involvement of the larger community of Inanda. Gandhi and the first ANC President, John Dube were neighbours,” said Sarkar.
In closing Dr Ela Gandhi said this recognition, coming at a time when the country is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, is of great significance.
She said looking at all the issues that came with COVID-19, she sees the huge divide between the rich and the poor emerging.
“We need to look at how we can improve ourselves, our own life. Look at how we can improve other people’s lives, improve everybody’s lives. That is contained in the Gandhian philosophy. This is significance to the Phoenix Settlement, we can promote this idea not only in South Africa, but South Africans can become the promoter of these ideas to the world,” said Gandhi.
Pictured: Distinguished guests who were part of the Phoenix Settlement Trust webinar.