South African political veteran Rajbansi dies

Charismatic South African Indian politician Amichand Rajbansi, 69, died suffering from a bronchial condition.

Last Updated: Dec 29, 2011, 23:07 PM IST

Durban: Charismatic and controversial South
African Indian politician Amichand Rajbansi, 69, on Thursday died
here in a hospital where he was admitted two months ago
for a bronchial condition.

"He died today of natural causes," Patrick Pillay,
spokesman for the Rajbansi family said in a statement.
He died just a fortnight short of his 70th birthday.

Nicknamed "The Bengal Tiger" because of his fiery nature,
Rajbansi courted political controversy throughout his career
but remained popular with a section of the Indian community
which repeatedly voted him back into positions through his
Minority Front party.

Durban: Charismatic and controversial South
African Indian politician Amichand Rajbansi, 69, on Thursday died
here in a hospital where he was admitted two months ago
for a bronchial condition.

"He died today of natural causes," Patrick Pillay,
spokesman for the Rajbansi family said in a statement.
He died just a fortnight short of his 70th birthday.

Nicknamed "The Bengal Tiger" because of his fiery nature,
Rajbansi courted political controversy throughout his career
but remained popular with a section of the Indian community
which repeatedly voted him back into positions through his
Minority Front party.

But his career was as colourful and controversial as the
flamboyant image he projected.

In 1998, then white minority National Party Prime Minister
PW Botha sacked Rajbansi after the James Commission into
alleged irregularities committed by Rajbansi described him as
"arrogant", "unscrupulous", "ruthless" and a "mean-minded
bully".

A decade after the first democratic elections in 1994 that
saw Nelson Mandela become President, Rajbansi, by now having
renamed his party the Minority Front, became a kingmaker
giving the ANC a majority after he threw his lot in with them.

In return, he was rewarded the post of Sports Minister in
his home province, but lost this during the last elections.

In January 2009, Rajbansi received a Lifetime Achievement
Award from the India International Friendship Society in New
Delhi.

The award to Rajbansi caused a stir in South Africa when
cleverly-crafted advertisements placed by him suggested that
it was an award from the Indian government, rather than one
from a volunteer organisation.

PTI