Diwali in South Africa hailed as social-cohesion exercise

By: | Updated: November 4, 2018 8:42 AM

The 20th edition of the annual Diwali Festival in Durban has been hailed as a major social-cohesion exercise in a city that is bedevilled by tensions between the large Indian community in South Africa and the indigenous Zulus.

The chief guests included Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a great follower of Mahatma Gandhi and, at 90, still head of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

The 20th edition of the annual Diwali Festival in Durban has been hailed as a major social-cohesion exercise in a city that is bedevilled by tensions between the large Indian community in South Africa and the indigenous Zulus.

“This is social cohesion right on the ground,” said Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, which organises the event that was officially opened Saturday evening.

Trikamjee said this was because the two-day festival of culture, colour and cuisine was both aimed at and attracted not just the Hindu community, but hundreds of South Africans from all communities.

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He recalled the scepticism in many quarters when the Festival of Lights was first mooted a few years after the local beachfront was racially desegregated following the election of Nelson Mandela as the country’s first democratic president and the end of apartheid.

“So many people, including from our own community, told us that it would not work. But we took up the challenge and went ahead at the beachfront, where thousands of supporters showed up, prompting us to seek larger venues over the years until we settled on the present site — which was formerly the home of Durban’s only drive-in cinema until its closure,” Trikamjee told PTI.

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The chief guests included Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a great follower of Mahatma Gandhi and, at 90, still head of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

In his address, Buthelezi referred to the importance of social cohesion and called for all South Africans to hold hands across racial divides.

Guest speaker Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, the chairperson of the statutory Cultural, Linguistic and Religious Rights Commission, echoed Buthelezi’s call, imploring South Africans to unite to bring about peace, tolerance and friendship. “Don’t entertain hate speech and hatred. If we entertain it, we will remain in the dark.”

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