It is hard to live the life of Gandhi
‘It is hard to live the life of Gandhi. You have to make sacrifices for mankind.”
These were the words of Bongani Mthembu, the tour guide at the Gandhi Settlement, as he explains how the Gandhi Settlement is not allowed to charge visitors any fees, even though the Gandhi Development Trust maintains the facility and battles financially.
The Gandhi Settlement is at the start of the Inanda Heritage Route and only a few kilometres from the N2, close to Durban North and Umhlanga, and less than half and hour’s drive from King Shaka International Airport.
Bongani, who grew up in the area, has been the tour guide at the Gandhi Settlement for more than a decade and is clearly steeped in the philosophy of this great leader, whose words of wisdom and statements of principled resolve are displayed in the different rooms, halls and in the gardens of the Gandhi Settlement.
After being burnt down by locals in the violent last days of the apartheid era, the settlement has since been lovingly restored.
Mahatma Gandhi arrived in South Africa at age 24 and lived here for 21 years. He had a profound influence on South Africa’s political history and the thinking of liberation leaders such as John Dube, the first ANC president.
At the Gandhi or Phoenix Settlement visitors can still see his home, the printing press where he published the Indian Opinion newspaper, and the home where his son Manila and his family lived after he had left South Africa.
Manila’s daughter Ela Gandhi, who is now in her 80s and still heads the Gandhi Development Trust and Satyagraha movement, grew up in this house, and says that she was imbued in the philosophy of righteous action on the basis of truth and of religious and cultural tolerance.
For me the most moving space in the Gandhi Settlement is the Democracy Hall, which is a celebration of the wealth of spiritual, religious and democratic leadership that the Inanda Heritage Route had produced. Beautifully crafted displays around the hall profile Isaiah Shembe, Mahatma Gandhi, John Dube, Albert Luthuli and other leaders.