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Nair - a devoted cadre

By unknown | Oct 31, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

People's hero Billy Nair spent 58 years dedicated to the service of his people. Integrity, honesty and straight-talk were his trademarks.

He was a mentor, leader, role model and dependable comrade to many generations of activists for social and economic justice.

He worked at Clover Dairies where he was fired after six months for leading a workers' strike.

He joined the Dairy Workers Union as a full-time organiser and secretary. This was the beginning of a long involvement in the trade union movement, culminating in the launch of Cosatu in 1985.

His workplace was close to Red Square and he was impressed by the discipline and resolve of the volunteers who participated in the Natal Indian Congress' passive resistance campaign of 1946.

He saw that the militant activism of the organisers of the political campaign matched his own approach in the trade union and joined the Natal Indian Youth Congress.

In 1950 he was elected secretary of the youth congress. Two years later he was elected onto the executive committee of the NIC, the youngest member ever.

As a firm believer in the principles of nonracialism and democracy, he actively organised and participated in the Defiance Campaign of 1952. He was arrested and sentenced to a month's imprisonment, which only served to strengthen his resolve to fight for liberation.

Dependable, Nair the worker organiser continued to mobilise people's voices on their needs that culminated in the Congress of the People where the Freedom Charter was adopted on June 26 1955. He spoke on the clause: "The People Shall Share in the Country's Wealth!"

In 1956 he was among the 156 national leaders charged with treason. In the long drawn-out trial all the accused were finally acquitted when the state's case fell apart.

Nair married Elsie while still on trial.

With the banning of the Communist Party of South Africa in 1950, the party regrouped itself into the SA Communist Party in 1953, with Nair being one of its original members.

After the collapse of the Treason Trial in 1960 the ANC and the PAC were banned, forcing them to take up arms.

Umkhonto weSizwe launched the armed struggle in December 1961. Nair was one of the founding members and the joint commander of the Natal region. Numerous acts of sabotage were committed with stolen dynamite.

On July 3 1963 he was arrested and charged with sabotage. The following year he was jailed for 20 years on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada.

On his release in 1984 he plunged himself into the activities of the United Democratic Front. In 1985 he was once again detained and assaulted. In 1994 he was elected to Parliament where he served two terms as an MP. He retired in 2004.

Nair is survived by his wife and a daughter, two grandchildren and five siblings.


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