Office hours of the Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre

The Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre will be opened Monday – Friday,7h30 till 16h00. For assistance, please contact munsamyt@ukzn.ac.za.

Heritage Month – 2023

Heritage Day on 24 September recognises and celebrates the cultural wealth of our nation. South Africans celebrate the day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day.


History of Heritage Day

September 24 was previously known in South Africa as Shaka Day, a day commemorating the Zulu King of Shaka. He was known for uniting the Zulu clan together and forming the Zulu nation. Every year, South Africans would gather at his grave to honor him.

2023 Women’s Day Celebrations

Every year, in August, our country marks Women’s Month. We also pay tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. A system meant to control women even further and reduce women to passive beings, at the mercy of men.

We will celebrate this year’s Women Month under the theme: “Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Building Back Better for Women’s Improved Resilience”. The concept of Generation Equality is a global campaign and links South Africa to global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030.

Women’s Month is a tribute not only to the thousands of women who marched on that day in 1956, but also a tribute to the pioneers of the women’s movement in this country, dating back to 1913, when women like Charlotte Maxeke led the way in establishing the ANC Women’s League and encouraging women to engage in the struggle for freedom. Pioneers include Cissy, Jaynab and Amina Gool, who were amongst the leaders of the National Liberation League and the Non-European United Front of the 1930s.


Nelson Mandela Month this July 2023

Former President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela abhorred injustice. He is largely known for the personal sacrifices that he and fellow freedom fighters made towards the attainment of democracy in South Africans. Even outside of prison, Mandela continued the fight against injustice, especially poverty through various means, including mobilising local and international friends to support fundraising efforts for food insecurity and education, among others.

Oliver and I opened our doors to our office on Fox Street in 1952

Mandela viewed anti-poverty efforts as the protection of human rights. He once said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” As such, South Africans will do well to honour him by emulating these ideals not only during Mandela Month but make them part of their daily lives. 

Walter and Mandela

President Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918. The year, 2023 marks his 105th birthday. The 18th of July is now known as International Nelson Mandela Day, and it is dedicated to acts of service by both local and international citizens who greatly admired and respected what he stood for.

The South African government has since dedicated the month of July to the commemoration of Mandela, thus naming it Mandela Month. 

The 2023 commemoration takes place under the theme “It is in your hands”.  Mandela made the declaration “It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it” during his July 2007 speech delivered at the “46664” AIDS benefit concerts held in his honour by local and foreign musicians between 2003 and 2008

Youth Day 2023

Youth Day commemorates the Soweto youth uprising of 16 June 1976.
In 1975 protests started in African schools after a directive from the then Bantu Education Department that Afrikaans had to be used on an equal basis with English as a language of instruction in secondary schools.

The June 16, 1976, Uprising that began in Soweto and spread countrywide profoundly changed the socio-political landscape in South Africa. Events that triggered the uprising can be traced back to policies of the Apartheid government that resulted in the introduction of the Bantu Education Act in 1953.

The rise of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and the formation of South African Students Organisation raised the political consciousness of many students while others joined the wave of anti-Apartheid sentiment within the student community. When the language of Afrikaans alongside English was made compulsory as a medium of instruction in schools in 1974, black students began mobilizing themselves. On 16 June 1976 between 3000 and 10 000 students mobilized by the South African Students Movement Action Committee supported by the BCM marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against the government’s directive. The march was meant to culminate at a rally in Orlando Stadium.

On their pathway, they were met by heavily armed police who fired teargas and later live ammunition on demonstrating students. This resulted in a widespread revolt that turned into an uprising against the government. While the uprising began in Soweto, it spread across the country and carried on until the following year.

The aftermath of the events of June 16, 1976, had dire consequences for the Apartheid government. Images of the police firing on peacefully demonstrating students led an international revulsion against South Africa as its brutality was exposed. Meanwhile, the weakened and exiled liberation movements received new recruits fleeing political persecution at home giving impetus to the struggle against Apartheid.
This year marks the 47th anniversary of the 16 June 1976 student uprising in Soweto when young people protested against imposition of Afrikaans by the apartheid regime as a medium of instruction. The uprising ended tragically with hundreds of young people being brutally killed. Following the advent of democracy in 1994, the new democratic government declared 16 June as National Youth Day and June as the Youth Month. The declaration honours of the contribution of the youth in the struggle for the liberation of South Africa.

Africa Day 2023

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the signature of its founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Africa Day is customarily held on 25 May each year and marks the creation in 1963 of the Organisation of African Unity—now the African Union

Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity normally known as African freedom day and then African Liberation day its origin lies in the collective African resistance to colonialism and economic exploitation.

Freedom Day

Freedom Day  is a public holiday in South Africa celebrated on 27 April. It celebrates freedom and commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994. These were the first post-apartheid national elections to be held in South African where anyone could vote regardless of race.

It is significant because it marks the end of over three hundred years of colonialism, segregation and white minority rule and the establishment of a new democratic government led by Nelson Mandela and a new state subject to a new constitution.

This was after many years of disenfranchisement of black people in South Africa. This day therefore marked an important democratic breakthrough in the history of the country.

Human Rights Day, 21 March

Human Rights Day in South Africa is historically linked with 21 March 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. On that day, 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the Pass laws. This day marked an affirmation by ordinary people, rising in unison to proclaim their rights. It became an iconic date in our country’s history that today we commemorate as Human Rights Day as a reminder of our rights and the cost paid for our treasured human rights.


In 1948 the National Party came to power in South Africa and began to formalise segregation in a succession of laws that gave the government control over the movement of black people in urban areas. The Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952 extended Government control over the movement of Africans to urban areas and abolished the use of the Pass Book (a document which Africans were required to carry on them to ‘prove’ that they were allowed to enter a ‘white area’) in favour of a reference book which had to be carried at all times by all Africans. Failure to produce the reference book on demand by the police, was a punishable offence.

The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) proposed an anti-pass campaign to start on 21 March 1960. All African men were to take part in the campaign without their passes and present themselves for arrest.
Campaigners gathered at police stations in townships near Johannesburg where they were dispersed by police. At the Sharpeville police station a scuffle broke out. Part of a wire fence was trampled, allowing the crowd to move forward. The police opened fire, apparently without having been given a prior order to do so. Sixty-nine people were killed and 180 wounded.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) whose the aim is to promote respect for human rights, promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in South Africa was launched on 21 March 1996, 35 years after the Sharpeville massacre.




Celebration 162 years arrival Indian Indentured Labour in Natal 1860-1911

Calcutta and Madras became the centres for the World’s trade in indentured Labour in the nineteenth century and recruiters from British and European colonies set up their offices and vied with each other to despatch their orders. The first recorded reference to the Natal Colonists demand for indentured Indian labour is traced to a report in the Durban Observer, 17 October 1851, No. 9 of a meeting of leading citizens held at Durban Government School Hall. Among those present were Morewood, William Campbell, J.C. Byrne and Dr. Johnstone. After a spirited debate the motion calling for the introduction of Indian labour was passed.

The ship, SS Truro, departed from Madras on October 12, 1860, with 342 passengers aboard and arrived in Durban on November 16, and was the first ship to bring Indian indentured labourers to Natal from India.

The ship, SS Truro, departed from Madras on October 12, 1860, with 342 passengers aboard and arrived in Durban on November 16, and was the first ship to bring Indian indentured labourers to Natal from India.

On board the ship, perhaps for the first time in their lives, Indians of different castes and different language groups discovered each other. Initially they found it difficult to mix socially, especially at meal times. For example, in the Muslim diet the meat had to be ‘halaal’, greater difficulties arose among the Hindus, among whom were vegetarians who were members of different castes who refused to cat together for ‘fear of losing their caste.’

The period 1860 to 1911 is thus an important and integral part of the overall history of South Africa. It was during this turbulent period when more than 150 000 indentured labourers were imported from India to Natal.

The Natal Mercury on November 22, 1860, reported on the arrival of the ship with the opening line: “On Friday afternoon last, the 16th instant, the large barque Truro made the anchorage and signalled the fact of her having a large number of Coolies on board.

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