When Chotubhai Makan met Mandela & Gandhi

Ninety-year-old Chotubhai Makan is probably the last surviving person in South Africa who has witnessed both Mahatma Gandhi's famous salt march in 1930 and the signing of the historic Freedom Charter in 1955 in the presence of Nelson Mandela, demanding a non-racial nation. Meeting Mandela again in 2005 on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Freedom Charter on the same site at the Johannesburg-suburb of Kliptown was a special moment for him.

"I was invited by the Premier of Gauteng to render a Hindu prayer alongside the other religious prayers. Soon after the prayers, I hurriedly took permission from the security officer, through the Programme Director, to meet Madiba, who was sitting away from the main table on the stage," Makan said referring to Mandela's clan name. "I greeted him with a handshake and introduced myself as a close associate of Jasmat Nana, also known to Madiba as Jessie, who later got national orders for his anti-apartheid struggle role as well. "I told him that I had been with Jessie on that historic day when the Freedom Charter was adopted at the same spot, although it was barren land then, unlike the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication that stands on the site now." "Madiba was overjoyed to hear this, stood up and shook my hand to congratulate me," Makan said. "I have been very privileged in my lifetime to have personally seen the two greatest leaders of the past century, Gandhiji and Madiba," he said.

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