Johannesburg: Mahatma Gandhi's 142nd birth anniversary was celebrated in and around Lenasia, an Indian township at the city's outskirts.
    
The celebration started with a special prayer at the now dilapidated Tolstoy Farm at Lawley south of Johannesburg, where Gandhi established a thriving self-sufficient commune during his tenure in Johannesburg at the turn of the 19th century while he ran a legal office in the city.
    
Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893, and at first practised law in Johannesburg in the early 1900s.
    
In neighbouring Soweto, the Gandhi Centenary Committee, led by his great-granddaughter Kirti Menon, hosted a tea party at Othandweni, a home for abused, neglected and abandoned children and a temporary shelter for destitute mothers or pregnant women seeking support.
    
Supporters and donors surprised the 90-odd children, from new-born babies to 18 year-old teenagers awaiting foster care or adoption, with a range of gifts and items to be used by the
home.
    
A unique student exchange programme took place between University of Mumbai and the University of South Africa (Unisa). Among the visitors to Othandweni was a group of 10 Mumbai University students and three academics from the institution.  They were the first group in a novel exchange programme which is planned to take place every year.
    
On Gandhi's birthday, a group from Mumbai University will visit Unisa for six days, while the latter will reciprocate with a South African group going to India on January 30 each year, when Gandhi's assassination is commemorated.
    
"This inaugural visit has been beyond all our expectations," said Sujatha Natarajan of Mumbai University as the group proceeded to the Trade Route Mall in nearby Lenasia to watch the launch of an exhibition of huge panels commemorating the various phases of the history of the Indian community in South Africa.
    
The exhibition was jointly hosted by the Mall, where a lifestyle statue of the Indian leader was installed earlier this year by the Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance Organisation, and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation to mark Gandhi Jayanti.
    
The Foundation, named after the South African Indian activist who spent many years on Robben Island with the iconic Nelson Mandela, aims to foster non-racialism in society.
    
The exhibition, commissioned by the Indian Consulate-General in Johannesburg last year to help mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Indians as indentured labourers in South Africa in 1860 will eventually find a permanent home at the Foundation, together with a statue of Gandhi.


(Agencies)