AS DELAYS in the construction of the 1860 monument to Indian indentured labourers drags on, community leaders have raised their voices calling the seven year wait “unacceptable” and an “insult” to the Indian community.
Some suggested that if the current 1860 organising committee, working with the city to kickstart the project, are struggling in their tasks, reinforcements should be called in.
Heritage conservationist and a director at the 1860 Heritage Centre in the Durban CBD, Juggie Pather, said that compared to other countries, the province was lagging behind in honouring Indian pioneers.
“When I look at other countries like Mauritius, Fiji and Trinidad, where Indians have settled, all of them have some sort of monument, be it a statue, building or plaque dedicated to Indians. I cannot understand why it is taking seven years to decide on a monument that will reflect and remember the suffering and contributions indentured labourers made in South Africa.
“If the current 1860 organising committee are finding it difficult to make headway, then a new group needs to be formed to take matters forward. There is too much procrastination. We need a committee that will aggressively push for the monument.”
DA spokesperson on Arts and Culture, MPL George Mari said: “There have been many delays by the organising committee and the municipality. At our budget meeting in April, we were told everything concerning the monument was approved. I am disgusted with the municipality. Once again, the Indian community are treated as second class citizens. This is totally unacceptable.”
MF councillor Jonathan Annipen said the party had always questioned the delays in Parliament.
“The delay is a complete insult to the Indian community. It shows us, in a subtle way, that our interests are not significant enough to be prioritised.”
The chairperson of the 1860 Heritage Foundation, Krish Gokool, said it took them eight years to get the 1860 Heritage Centre in Derby Street up and running.
“We had many struggles but we are finally off the ground. If the project can be co-ordinated with our committee as well, we can ensure it is fast-tracked. We have established good relationships with the city and the province.”
The spokesperson for the 1860 Indentured Labourers’ Foundation in Verulam, Anand Jayrajh, said it was disappointing that key role-players could not get their act together. He suggested an umbrella body be formed to act as a unified voice.