Indian-Origin Anti-Apartheid Activist Dies of Covid-19 Complications

Maniben Sita, an Indian-origin South African activist, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 94 due to Covid-19 complications. She was reportedly admitted to a hospital in Pretoria last week after she tested positive for Coronavirus. 

Inspired by her father Nana Sita, Maniben devoted her entire life to fighting racism and protested against the apartheid in South Africa. 

Nana Sita, who believed in Mahatma Gandhi’s ideologies, had joined Gandhi for his Satyagraha struggle and continued the resistance long after Gandhi came back to India. When he had received a letter in Pretoria from Gandhi as a young lawyer to fight a case for a local Indian merchant, he didn’t hesitate to meet Gandhi, and he also lived several months with him. 

At the age of 13, Maniben’s political activism got activated when her father told her about violent tensions between two factions within the Transvaal Indian Congress. Emphasizing the role of women in today’s society, Maniben had said, “ Today’s young Indian women have more opportunity to take action against evils in the society and should do so more vigorously.” 

A quick glance into the life of the Anti-Apartheid Activist 

  • Born in 1926 into a family that was involved in the active politics of India, Maniben took a keen interest not only in the political resistance of India but also in South African politics. 
  • After completing her studies, Maniben became a teacher. After this, she turned a fierce political resister in her trademark sari. 
  • The follower of Gandhi, who had embraced satyagraha to oppose injustice, had to serve a jail term of three months when she had occupied a bench at the railway station that was the sole preserve of the whites only. This was not the last time she was imprisoned. She had gone to prison several times during her long involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle, like her father. 
  • In 1994, Maniben had been given the post of the National Congress municipal councillor in Africa with the advent of democracy. After serving a five-year term, she had chosen not to be re-elected. 
  • She has been one of the recipients of the annual Valliamma Mudliar Awards in February 2013 as an exceptional woman leader. 
  • For her lifelong leadership with the Congress of Business and Economics, Maniben had been bestowed with the Ahmed Kathrada Award of Excellence in 2018. 
  • Maniben is also recognised as one of the important figures of South Africa and her portrait hangs in the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. 

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