Durban - South African Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said yesterday the late Swaminathan “Swami” Karuppa Gounden was a friend, mentor and guide to him throughout his activist years during the Struggle.
Gordhan, who was delivering a virtual tribute during the late stalwart’s funeral at the Clare Estate Crematorium in Durban, said Gounden left behind footprints that few would recognise.
Gounden, who was one of the few surviving people present at the signing of the Freedom Charter, was a close family friend of Gordhan’s and a long-standing member of the ANC.
Gounden joined the SACP in 1944. He died on Tuesday at the age of 94.
“I have lost a friend, a mentor and a guide. Throughout my activist years, he played a phenomenal role in guiding us,” Gordhan said on Thursday, adding Swami’s mental sharpness at an old age was something to marvel at.
“He was a builder, an organiser and a contributor.”
The funeral was hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government and saw tributes paid by Premier Sihle Zikalala, MEC for Economic Development Ravi Pillay and Provincial Executive Committee member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) Joe Nene.
Durban billionaire businessman Vivian Reddy also attended the funeral and told Independent Media he was a humble human being who cared deeply for the nation.
“Comrade Swami believed in the vision of the Freedom Charter, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. He dedicated his life to attainment of the demands of the Freedom Charter and the attainment of democracy on the basis of one person one vote, which was a key demand from the thousands of demands that had been collected throughout the Congress of the People campaign which spanned nearly two years.
“Comrade Swami lived in the same modest home in Asherville for 66 years. He was born of the people and was a man of the people. We must take a lesson from his life as we rebuild and renew our society. To honour the sacrifices of Cde Swami and his generation, we must again be able to tell our children that there are better days ahead,” Zikalala said.
“He was there to support the children of Soweto, Langa, Gugulethu, Lamontville, Orient High, Merebank and Chatsworth in 1976 and again when they rose in revolt in 1980. He was there when the United Democratic Front was launched in 1983. He was there to receive Cdes Billy Nair, Curnick Ndlovu and scores of others when they were released from Robben Island. He was there to bid Cde Riot Mkwanazi farewell, at rallies, at the TRC, at the Moerane Commission, working in the branches of his movement and, very importantly in the civic structures in his local community.”
Both MEC Pillay and Gounden’s son said he was disheartened by the July unrest, when racial tensions were heightened, resulting in the deaths of more than 44 people across eThekwini.