Indian politician on brief visit to SA drops in to see Madiba

India's National Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi met former president Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg yesterday.

India's National Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi met former president Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg yesterday.

Gandhi said she was honoured to meet Mandela. "It is a privilege. A visit to South Africa wouldn't be complete without calling on Madiba."

She presented Mandela with a book.

The frail-looking Mandela, who greeted everyone with a simple "hello", was seen paging through the Gandhian Way, a book based on the principles and values of Mahatma Gandhi.

Former Robben Islander Ahmed Kathrada and Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Anand Sharma were also present.

Kathrada said it was an honour to be in the presence of Gandhi and that her visit reminded him of her husband Rajiv, who was assassinated in May 1991. He had opposed apartheid.

"Sonia Gandhi's significant presence gives us the opportunity to recall the assassination with sadness... but it also gives us an opportunity to salute a prominent Indian leader," said Kathrada.

Sharma said: "It is a privilege and blessing to be in the presence of people who believe in human dignity and freedom.

"Mandela is a hero of our people. We would like to convey our gratitude and appreciation."

Gandhi was also scheduled to meet President Thabo Mbeki and Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka yesterday.

Today, Gandhi will give a lecture at the University of Cape Town.

"I will speak at the University of Cape Town tomorrow to mark the 100th year of the Satyagraha (non-violence and peace) movement."

Her brief visit, which was to strengthen relationships between the Indian and South African people, ends day.

She said she therefore would have "too little time to see this beautiful country". - Sapa

X