Durban Living Legend – Ela Gandhi

Ela Gandhi was born in Phoenix, Durban in 1940 July 1. She is known for her activism during apartheid era, and was a Member of Parliament in South Africa from 1994 to 2004, where she aligned with the African National Congress party representing the Phoenix. She is the grand daughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Ela Gandhi is Chancellor of the Durban University of Technology and a peace activist.  She is Honorary President of World Council on Religions for Peace and a Board member of the Legal Aid Board

She received her B.A. degree at the former Natal University and later received a B.A. in social science with honors from UNISA. Following graduation, she worked as a social worker with the Verulam Child and Family Welfare Society for 15 years and the Durban Indian Child and Family Welfare Society for five years.

She participated in CODESA negotiations and served on Transitional Executive Council. She was a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly 1994-2004.

Gandhi has served as an executive member of the Natal Organisations of Women from its inception until 1991. Her political affiliations include the Natal Indian Congress, which she served as vice president, the United Democratic Front, Descom Crisis Network, and Inanda Support Committee. During apartheid, Gandhi was banned in 1975 from political activism and subjected to house arrest for a total of nine years.

Gandhi developed a 24-hour program against domestic violence, founded the Gandhi Development Trust, serves as a member of the Religious Affairs Committee, and oversees a monthly newspaper. She also chairs the Mahatma Gandhi Salt March Committee and the Mahatma Gandhi Development Trust. She is the chairperson of ICON – International Centre of Nonviolence.

Ela Gandhi’s contribution to politics and society is widely recognised –

  • In 2002, she received the Community of Christ International Peace Award.
  • In 2007, she was conferred the Padma Bhushan award from the Government of India.[9]
  • In 2014, she was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman – the highest honour for overseas Indians conferred by the President of India.
  • In 2014, she was also honoured as a veteran of the Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Interview with Mwelela Cele

Duphelia-Meshtrie, U (ed). 2003. Sita – Memoirs of Sita Gandhi – growing up at Phoenix and in the shadow of the Mahatma. Durban: Durban Local History Museum.
Gandhi, E. 1994. They fought for Freedom: Mohanda Gandhi – the South Africa years. Cape Town: Maskew Miller Longman.
Govinden, D.B. 2008. A Time of Memory: reflections on recent South African writings. Durban: Solo Collective.

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