Indian activist, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi might have gained world recognition for his nonviolent civil disobedience. However, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s enemy. On the continent, the undue necessity to embrace the freedom fighters of other countries and glorify them has left many caught between the webs of history. Gandhi, undoubtedly a hero to the Indians was however not a hero for Africans.
In Malawi, the Blantyre City Council made plans to erect Gandhi’s statue. The resistance to the statue was channelled into a petition that said: “As black Africans-Malawians we will find it very offensive to appreciate the value of the statue when the man himself thought we were inferior. If you erect this statue it will make a mockery out of Malawi’s independence movement which fought to extricate “classism” between black, brown and white races.” The petition has garnered over 3,600 signatures.
This week the petitioners won an injunction to halt the construction of the $10 million statue. The group known as the “Gandhi Must Fall” group gave 18 grounds against the construction of the statue. The group said: “Being black people ourselves, such remarks have invited a sense of loathing and detestation of Gandhi.”
Some of Gandhi’s statements that the group quoted in its petition said: “Indians are hardworking people, they should not be required to carry these things. But black people are kaffirs, losers and they are lazy, yes, they can carry their passport but why should we do that?” A list of Gandhi’s racist statements has left no doubt about the racist nature of Gandhi.
Gandhi statue removed in Ghana
It was perplexing when the statue of Gandhi was erected on the grounds of the University of Ghana in 2016. A swift petition was drafted by the lecturers of the University of Ghana saying: “How will the historian teach and explain that Gandhi was uncharitable in his attitude towards the Black race and see that we’re glorifying him by erecting a statue on our campus?” The statue was eventually pulled down following the campaign.
If there’s any more evidence of the present being the future and the past, one just has to look at how Gandhi’s past statements have found themselves in the future. The legacy of Gandhi has become heavily contested, particularly on the African continent, and his views on Black people have been criticised and rejected by the present generation.
With work on the statue temporarily stopped, hopefully, African governments will take time out to reflect on their heroes. With a whole list of freedom fighters and heroes and heroines on the continent, from Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Winnie Madzikizela-Mandela, Steve Biko, Tom Mboya, surely, African governments can choose from these.