By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, Apr 8 (PTI) More than five thousand people, including many high-profile dignitaries, participated in the 34th edition of South Africa’s largest Gandhi Walk, an annual fundraising event held in Lenasia, a formerly racially segregated Indian township south in Gauteng Province.
The Gandhi Walk was originally started to help pay off the costs of the Gandhi Hall in Lenasia, 30 kilometres from here which is also one of the most popular venues for community events.
With this target long since achieved, funds raised now are given to a number of charity and community organizations, ranging from free health services to care of orphans and elderly people.
With the theme of ‘United4Sport’, the participants included David Makhura, the Premier of Gauteng province, national Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, nine times winner of the grueling annual Comrades Marathon Bruce Fordyce and Indian Consul General K J Srinivasa.
“Social cohesion is what we are out here to do as South Africans, and it is a great day for me to be here today to join the Gandhi Walk since I started out three years ago,” said Makhura as he commented on the thousands of people of all races waiting at the starting line.
“What we are witnessing here today is a country united in its diversity,” Hanekom said.
“We are very humbled by the wide support and grateful to the thousands who turned up to do the Gandhi Walk today,” said Chairman of the Gandhi Walk Committee Amit Parbhucharan, as he handed over a special citation to 82-year-old Jivan Ramjee, the oldest serving member of the Gandhi Walk Committee.
Philanthropist Sammy Naidoo of the ApplePrint Group of Companies announced that he would prepare 10,000 special books for free distribution to mark the history of the Gandhi Walk at its 35th anniversary next year.
“We will also incorporate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth which will be celebrated on October 2 this year on a large scale in South Africa as well, as was announced last month by Dr Srinivasa,” Naidoo said.
Peripheral events which kept the crowd busy included the famed Chinese Lion Dance by South African-born members of the Chinese community, with the highlight being a Hollywood vs Bollywood dance contest that saw five of the country’s top dance groups vie for a prize worth over $15,000.
The Dance Sensation contest was won by the group DesiMotion.
“Bollywood versus Hollywood meant that we pushed our boundaries and stepped out of our comfort zones,” said DesiMotion founder Shivani Govender, a former Miss India South Africa.
Head of the adjudication panel, pioneering Afro-Indian dance instructor Jayesperi Moopen of Tribhangi Dance Theatre, said it was a very good idea to include a competition component to end the day of Gandhi Walk activities.
“It assists to raise our standards to some extent. With the advent of reality dance programs coming out of the UK, the US and India we need to think globally when creating locally.
“However its baby steps in our industry, particularly for Bollywood items to be put on a competitive stage, and maybe in this entertaining way we give Indian dance the respect and public profile it deserves,” Moopen said.
The Gandhi Hall was built to replace one which was originally constructed by the local Gujarati community in the centre of Johannesburg after all the Indian residents were forcibly moved out from there to Lenasia by the separate development policy of the minority white apartheid government.
The original hall, site of many public meetings by Mahatma Gandhi during his tenure in Johannesburg as he rallied the community to fight discriminatory laws, was demolished after the community received a pittance as compensation.
By Fakir Hassen