The Jubilee

  • A Krainer
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  • October 2013
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Sandals

Posted by Alex Krainer on October 28, 2013

In 1893 Mahatma Gandhi went to South Africa, intending to stay there for only a few months. He ended up living there for 21 years as he took up the struggle to restore the dignity and rights to a subdued, disarmed, and enslaved Indian community.

During those years, his chief political opponent was General Ian Christian Smuts who, as the Colonial secretary and later the Secretary of the Interior was responsible for implementing some of the discriminatory laws against the Indians.

When Gandhi finally left South Africa in 1914, Smuts wrote, “The saint has left our shores, I hope forever.”

Some years later, an exasperated Winston Churchill asked Smuts – who had meanwhile served two terms as South Africa’s prime minister – why he had not killed Gandhi while he had the chance. Smuts replied, “How could I do this to a man who made sandals for me with his own hands when I imprisoned him.

In later years, remembering Gandhi Smuts wrote: “… I have worn these sandals for so many summers since then, even though I may feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man.”

The above story was related by Niloufer Bhagwat in her article, “The Political Relevance and Global Impact of Mahatma Gandhi.

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