Johannesburg: A life-size statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled on Saturday in South Africa's Rustenburg city alongside that of his nemesis and former President Paul Kruger, marking the centenary of his return to India from South Africa.
Indian High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam, who unveiled the statue, said Mahatma Gandhi was very much a part of the heritage of both South Africa and India.
"The two countries are joined together in immortal bonds of fraternity and friendship and the heritage was carried forward by the great leader of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who also followed the teachings and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi to lead this country to its freedom," Ghanashyam said.
Historian and Gandhian scholar Eric Itzkin, who was the guest speaker, reminded the audience of the irony of Gandhi's statue now sharing space with that of Kruger on the sprawling Kedar Heritage Lodge country estate of Robert Forsythe, who has the largest collection of Anglo-Boer War memorabilia in South Africa.
"Back in 1893, newly-arrived in South Africa, a young M K Gandhi was kicked off the footpath by a constable outside President Kruger's home in Pretoria," Itzkin said.
"The unveiling here at Kedar Heritage Lodge, on the site of Kruger's farm, of a statue of Gandhi feels like an act of historical recognition and restitution, even if it comes rather late, and carrying with it a sweet touch of irony," the historian added.
Forsythe said Gandhi had been very much part of the Anglo-Boer War, mobilising Indians into service as stretcher-bearers in the war, and therefore equally deserved a place in his historical statue collection of other figures on both sides related to the war.