Copyright 2022 by Ezra Azra
Photo courtesy of South African History
and I were students at the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.
met occasionally with other students in the Student Common Rooms in
City Building, ground floor, and in Marion Building, second floor.
were enrolled in different programs. I never knew what courses she
was enrolled in. We were acquainted for less than two years in 1966
first meeting was in February 1966 when we were cast in a University
of Natal student production of the Ancient Greek play, Antigone,
written by Sophocles, translated by Gilbert Murray. I played the role
of Creon; she played the role of Ismene. Everybody involved was a
play was staged in the Kathiawad School theatre, a block away from
the Saint Aidan's private hospital in the City of Durban. It was the
first time that play was staged in South Africa with an all Non-White
cast in racist South Africa, in the Kathiawad School theatre. To my
knowledge, that historic record still stands in 2022, 56 years later.
one time Rajaluxmi handed a few of us xeroxed copies of an optional
class essay she had written, entitled, "The only parable in the
Bible that prevails from Genesis to Revelations." From her
contextual citations, she had to have read the Bible from cover to
cover to write that essay. Her teacher, Professor (Miss) Margaret
Dent, passed the essay, remarking she had never had an undergraduate
student who had written an essay so thorough in its treatment of the
topic, and so long; and that the essay was easily graduand caliber.
Senator, Robert Francis Kennedy, visited South Africa in June 1966.
The White apartheid racist Government was at its racist evil worst.
White police, plain- clothes, and uniformed, frequently barged into
classrooms on the Non-White University of Natal campuses of Marion
Building, City Building and Sastri College. The police would pick
students, at random it seemed to us, and demand document
identification. The documents were flung back on the student's desk,
when returned. The plain-clothes officers never showed badges or
the thousands and thousands of Government officials in the four great
Occidental Christian democracies: Britain, Canada, France, and the U.
S. A., during the 46 years of evil racist White rule in South Africa;
Senator Robert Francis Kennedy was the only one who had the righteous
commitment to travel to South Africa and while in South Africa to say
and do things, in a most gentlemanly manner, in open public defiance
of the all-White South African Government's racism against Non-White
found out that the Senator would be visiting the centre of the Durban
White campus, Howard College, on King George V Avenue, one evening.
That campus was a few miles from the Non-White campus.
and I were among the group of Non-White students who walked to Howard
College in the dark to see the Senator.
black car stopped under a street light in front of the Howard College
building. His pedestrian audience was a crowd of vocally antagonistic
White students. There was not even one Non-White student visible
because we knew that amongst those White pedestrians, were the
Government's Secret Police. We kept to the shadows of the cluster of
trees near that street light.
the Senator deliberately park under that particular street light?
climbed on the roof of his vehicle, and stood up, and faced the
trees. We were expecting a rousing speech of encouragement.
he sang the banned Non-White anthem, "Nkosi, Sikelel iAfrika."
("God, bless Africa.") He sang it in the language in which
it was originally composed: Xhosa!
and forever, God bless Robert Francis Kennedy, 1925-1968.
the last quarter of the 1966 University year, Rajaluxmi ran for
election to a seat on the Non-White Student Representative Council,
operating principally out of Marion Building on Lancers Road. A
salaried job. She won a seat.
won in her first year at the University; I had been trying for nine
years before her, and I was never elected.
was a one-year office, but there was such Political upheaval on
campus at the time, that at the end of the year in 1967, no new
candidates came forward. The sitting Council had no choice but to
serve another year. It was a diminished Council because some of their
members had graduated out of the University.
were turbulent times in South Africa. The Whites-only Government
ruled the Country by openly racist laws from 1948 to 1994. Only
people of the White Caucasian race were free to move about in the
country. All other races were designated, Non-Whites. The racist laws
of the country restricted each Non-White race to its own
Government-allocated Group Area.
clashes between White police and Non-White Political protestors were
happening in many places every week-or-so in three of the country's
four Provinces. There was no such violence in the Orange Free State
Province because the racist laws prevented Non-Whites from living
there. When trains stopped at stations in the Orange Free State for
Whites to board and disembark, Non-Whites were not allowed.
laws declared there were four races in South Africa: Bantu
(Aboriginal Negroid Blacks), Coloureds (Mixed race), Indians
(Descendants from immigrants who arrived from India in the nineteenth
century), Whites (Descendants of Europeans who first settled in South
Africa in the seventeenth century.)
was a South African Indian; I was a South African Coloured. On the
section of the University Campus we attended, there was no
discrimination among the Non-White races. No White students were
legally allowed to attend classes on the two Non-White Durban
was constant unrest on campus because there was violent competition
among three Political Parties among the Non-White students: the
Communists, the Sons of Young Africa, and the African National
Congress (ANC). Each had their own brand of violent opposition to the
White racist Government.
had enrolled at the University in 1956. The Political violence among
the three Parties was already in full swing. My application to join a
Party, any Party, was rejected by all three for the same reason: I
was too poor to afford the membership dues.
Rajaluxmi arrived on Campus in 1966, she was already an ANC member.
She was an active recruiter for her Party.
was one of the many University Non-White students who had passports
to enable us a quick emigration. My passport was due to expire in
December 1967. My application in July for a renewal was denied.
Passport denial always meant imminent arrest. I was resigned to join
in prison the many other Non-White students who had been suddenly
arrested, and were never seen again.
Pillay arranged for my secret exit from the country in September
1967, without expense to me. It would be 36 years before we saw each
all those years I tried to keep track of her, but since she was an
ordinary ANC foot soldier, most of the time it was impossible to find
any information about her whereabouts. What little information I came
by was through former South African students living in England,
writing letters to me, irregularly.
the racist Whites-only South African Government was eventually
defeated democratically in 1994, I thought it would be easier to find
her. It was still impossible. I found out why in 2002.
that year, I attended an international University conference at the
University of Lesotho in the City of Roma in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
Coincidentally, Rajaluxmi was attending an ANC rally in Roma at the
same time. We met in a cafeteria. Both of us were speechless. For
long, long seconds we just stared at each other. She told me why it
had been impossible for me to find out about her.
1979 she was obliged to flee South Africa. The ANC transported her to
neighboring Swaziland, a first stop for South Africans fleeing the
racist Government. The Swaziland Government was not friendly because
the South African Government invaded whenever they chose to in
pursuit of refugees. South African refugees in Swaziland were
continually being assassinated by South African agents who did not
respect the laws and international rights of Swaziland.
ANC did not let their fleeing members remain long in Swaziland. While
in Swaziland, the refugees were continually and unexpectedly moved to
different locations. Rajaluxmi was in Swaziland for a few weeks
before she was transported to Zambia, and then to Angola. In Angola,
the ANC taught her to drive different kinds of military vehicles, the
first skill she had perfected in her life, she remarked.
refugees on the run were as much in danger in these countries, too.
The South African racist agents invaded all African countries south
of the equator with impunity, kidnapping and assassinating.
believed that it was very probable she was not especially targeted by
South African Government murderers because she always had been merely
a worker in the ranks of the ANC. In South Africa, she was a
messenger. From the time she left Swaziland, until 1990 when all ANC
exiles were allowed to return to South Africa, she had engaged in
only clerical work for the ANC.
on the run, in exile, took a serious toll on her health. She spent
years in hospital in Holland. I had heard she had married in
Swaziland in order to bypass legal difficulties of being a political
refugee. She did not mention her marriage; I did not ask.
the White racist Government of South was defeated by democratic
elections in 1994, their racism began to crumble in 1988, when the
army of Cuba defeated the South African army at the battle of Quito
Cuanavale, in Angola. The racist South Africans were supplied by
Britain, Canada and the U.S.A. The Cubans were supported by the
1990, the militarily defeated racist White South African Government
was obliged to commit to an International Agreement to allow all
South Africans living in exile, to return to South Africa, and not be
an ANC agent recuperating in Holland, Rajaluxmi was informed of the
impending military confrontation in Angola. She requested an
assignment as a vehicle driver in Angola. Her request was promptly
hospital in Holland she and the doctors had quietly given up on the
possibility of her survival. Had Quito Cuanavale not happened, she
would have died in Holland long before South Africa had become a
democratic victory for the ANC. She said she had never been so
triumphantly happy, as when she drove her army jeep over the
territory in Quito Cuanavale, Angola, that had been hastily abandoned
by defeated retreating South African racist troops only hours
earlier. She showed me a pocket-sized snap-shot of her in soldier
unform, leaning against her jeep. She said she carried that snapshot
on her all the time. She was planning to visit Quito Cuanavale once
we parted in Lesotho in 2002, we exchanged email addresses. I wrote
to her. She never replied. I did not persist, knowing what a heavy
toll her fieldwork loyalty to the ANC must be taking on a person as
frail as I had seen her to be in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
kept close track of her life in South Africa. She continued to serve
the ANC diligently up to the end, and she was well served, in return,
by the Party, and by other people who were thankful for her
sacrifices to bring about a truly democratic South Africa. She was a
celebrity in South Africa, having been given many awards by the ANC
and by her local Community. Of our small group of students at the
University of Natal in 1966-1967, she sacrificed, and achieved the
most to make South Africa a true Democracy.
Rajaluxmi Pillay died, a eulogy was delivered at her funeral by
Yasmin Jessie Duarte (1953-2022), the Deputy Secretary-General of the
African National Conference. Duarte had been, at one time, the
Special Assistant to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013), the first
Non-White President of a fully democratic South Africa, after the
fall of the all-White apartheid-racist Government (1948-1994).
Pillay, South African Non-White heroine nonpareil, rest in peace.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Story list and biography
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