|The derelict Tolstoy Farm - the farm South-West of Johannesburg where Mahatma Gandhi and his followers lived as a community in the early 1900s - is to be brought back to life, housing a museum and community centre.|
The Gandhi Centenary Council (GCC) plans to erect the Mahatma Gandhi Museum and a multi-skills training centre on the Lenasia property, approximately 35km from the city centre and 17km from Soweto. Work will begin on the development in February, said GCC vice-chairman Prema Naidoo.
At present, all that is left of Tolstoy Farm, on land owned by brick company Corobrik, are the foundations.
Negotiations are currently underway between the GCC and Corobrik to draw up an agreement governing the use of the land. "The owner has shown an interest in keeping the legacy of Gandhi alive and is prepared to donate the land, provided it is used for the museum and training centre," Naidoo said.
The GCC was established in the late 1960s to commemorate the birth of Gandhi and to promote his values of peace, non-violence and equality.
According to Naidoo, the Mahatma Gandhi Museum will use photographs, newspaper cuttings, and audio and video exhibits to highlight his life and work.
Gandhi, the father of India's struggle for independence from Britain, arrived in South Africa in 1893 to handle a legal case and was to remain in South Africa for the next 21 years.
It was in South Africa that Gandhi developed, between 1910 and 1913, his Satyagraha philosophy of passive resistance, and it was on Tolstoy Farm that he and his followers lived out this philosophy. The farm was named after Russian novelist and philosopher Leon Tolstoy.
In 1906 Gandhi made headlines when he announced he would go to jail, or even die, before he would obey the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, which proposed that Indians and Chinese register their presence in the Transvaal through being fingerprinted and having to carry passes.
In keeping with Gandhi's philosophy of self-sufficiency, the museum will also incorporate a centre where members of the local community can attend multi-skills training programmes in an effort to gain marketable skills and alleviate poverty and unemployment.
The project could play an important role in the local community, as well as catalyse new investment in the area, said Naidoo, who is also a Johannesburg City Councillor.
The Gauteng Tourism Authority echoes these sentiments. "The project is significant, particularly in building relations with the Indian subcontinent," said the GTA product development manager, Jacques Stoltz.
The GTA will, over a three-year period, support the project with a R840 000 cash injection. The authority will provide R500 000 for the 2003/2004 financial year to kick off the project.
"Although the area is currently not on any major tourist route, it could easily fit into a struggle route that includes the Hector Peterson Museum in Soweto," Naidoo added. "It is likely to appeal to international peace activists, people interested in Gandhi and the struggle against apartheid."
Anyone who is interested in supporting the project can contact Prema Naidoo on 011 403 3397.